Wednesday, October 25, 2006

SPORTS >>Lonoke still eyeing title, Stuttgart in the way

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke will face its toughest opponent all season this week when they travel to Stuttgart on Friday to battle the undefeated Ricebirds. The Jackrabbits are coming off a difficult loss against Marianna in a game that went down to the wire and was decided in the final minute by a failed two-point attempt.

Although the Jackrabbits have lost four games this season, the losses have been by a combined margin of only 15 points. A win on the road against Stuttgart will be difficult, but Lonoke does have a good chance to play the Ricebirds closer than any other opponent they have faced so far this season.

Stuttgart has dramatically outscored its opponents 305-67 through seven games. The Ricebirds have won every game by at least three scores, with a 34-14 win over Joe T. during week two standing as the closest game for them all season. Stuttgart coach Bobby Bolding says there is no threat of overconfidence from his team this week. The Ricebirds have had the luxury of an unscheduled off-week due to the cancellation of Mountain View’s season.

Stuttgart received a forfeit win last week. Bolding hopes the rest will help some of his starters mend the common bumps and bruises that occur at this point in the season. “We did some good things in practice last week,” Bolding said. “We were able to run some of our young kids and let some of the old guys heal up. I hope this week off will help us out against Lonoke.

“I think (Lonoke) keeps getting better and better every week. Coach Jones has a great program started down there. They give you looks you don’t see every day with their form of the spread and the 3-1-1 look they have defensively. They have talented skill people. They are kind of difficult to prepare for because of the things you don’t see all the time. I’m glad we’ve had this extra week to get ready.”

Stuttgart’s skill players have also had a solid year so far. Senior receiver Nico Hobbs has 25 receptions for 450 yards and six touchdowns in the first seven games, and tailback Tim Raines has 921 yards through six games. Raines has averaged almost 10 yards per carry after sitting out one game earlier in the year.

Stuttgart’s biggest game of the year will be next week against Marianna, but Bolding says his team doesn’t have time right now to worry about the potential conference-title game. “We really haven’t even looked at Marianna,” Bolding said. “We have been focused on Lonoke. They have more than enough to concern us this week, we will worry about that game when and if we get by this week.”