Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits try to regain strength

Leader sports writer

Injuries can be the difference in a season.

Lonoke coach Doug Bost found out Friday how having some of his best players out can make for a struggle when the Jackrabbits fell 21-7 to rival Central Arkansas Christian.

With the 2-4A Conference opener at Heber Springs on Friday, Bost is optimistic about the return of three of his most experienced seniors, and he is holding his breath over the status of his senior quarterback.

Receivers Darius Scott and Todd Hobson are expected back this week. Scott is recovering from an injured knee and Hobson suffered from flu-like symptoms all last week.

Senior lineman Andrew Gibbs has been nursing an ankle sprain he suffered in the ’Rabbits 40-30 victory over Beebe in Week 2.

Quarterback Michael Nelson was scheduled to visit the doctor on Monday afternoon after taking a blow to the head at Central Arkansas Christian.

Nelson has experienced dizziness since the hit, which may have contributed to his season-low numbers in the game. Nelson was 9 of 25 for 82 yards and had three interceptions after taking our Leader offensive player of the week honors with almost 300 passing yards the week before.

“We had some opportunities, and we felt like we could have had a chance to win that one if we didn’t have those guys out,” Bost said of the loss to Central Arkansas Christian. “But, we had to play with what we had.”

Nelson’s picks made for three of five total turnovers for the Jackrabbits last week.

“You’re not going to win when you have five turnovers,” Bost said. “We shot ourselves in the foot too many times. We had the ball inside their 5 two different times and didn’t convert.”

Senior offensive guard Hunter Hearn is also a question mark for Lonoke this week after he suffered a broken hand against Central Arkansas Christian.

Bost said that if Hearn is given a soft cast he could be ready to go against the Panthers on Friday, but a hard cast will have Hearn out for several weeks.

Bost hopes to have his team as healthy as possible against a stout Panthers team led by fifth-year coach Steve Janski. Heber Springs outscored its three non-conference opponents 118-20, including a 63-13 butchering of local foe Rose Bud in Week 2.

The Panthers have a potent offense that begins with senior quarterback Wes McMullen, who threw for almost 2,100 yards last year as junior, setting a school record.

But McMullen was not the only Panther to break a record in 2008. Running back Braylon Mitchell rushed for a school mark of 1,784 yards, and got the attention of the University of Arkansas.

Mitchell has been timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash and has football size at 6-3, 225 pounds. Bost said there is good reason to worry about McMullen and Mitchell, plus senior flanker David Darne.

“They’ve got their quarterback that started for them last year back,” Bost said. “He’s a weapon. He can throw it on you, and when they fake it to Mitchell, he’ll keep it and turn up the field. Number 23 is their main receiver. He’s got 4.5 speed, and they use him for sweep plays. So those are the three main guys we’ll be keyed on.”