Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SPORTS>>’Rabbits’ race muddled

Leader sports editor

The 2-4A Conference needs no form of power rankings or points system — it’s confusing enough just to look at the standings.

The race for first is fairly clear-cut, with Clinton dominating the league at 5-0 and Marianna-Lee one game back at 4-1, but third through sixth place features a cluster of good teams vying for a limited number of playoff spots.

Lonoke falls into that group.

The Jackrabbits are 3-2 in conference along with Heber Springs and Stuttgart, Lonoke’s opponent this week. A three-way tie for third is difficult enough to decipher before adding in sixth-place Newport, which is just one game in back of the mess at 2-3.

“It’s just jumbled up right now,” Jackrabbits coach Doug Bost said. “You got Clinton right there rolling, but it’s six teams right there. Somebody is going to get left behind.”

The head-to-head records also complicate things.

Lonoke (6-2 overall) has a key victory over Heber Springs, which has victories over Stuttgart and Newport. Newport handed Lonoke its first conference loss in Week 5, but has since lost to Stuttgart, Heber Springs and Clinton.

The battle for seventh and eighth place will also be settled this week when Southside Batesville plays at Cave City in a game between winless teams.
Stuttgart (4-4 overall) is coming off a 41-14 victory overSouthside Batesville last week. A victory over Lonoke is key for Stuttgart after it lost to Clinton and Heber Springs.

“We know this game is very important,” Bost said. “Clinton is on a roll, and we’ve got them for the last game, so we’re really looking at this one hard. Both of these last two are really important.”

Stuttgart has shown depth even after graduating all but two starters last year.

The offensive backfield features a blend of experienced and younger players who have helped the Ricebirds to an average 26 points a game since the start of conference play while the defense has held opponents to 18.3 points a game.

“Of all the teams we play, they run the option better than anybody,” Bost said. “Their quarterback rides the running back, and he knows right when to give it and right when to pull it, so we have to be very disciplined on defense.

“There’s no downfield passing that we’ve seen from them, but it all starts with their quarterback; he’s the one you have to stop.”

The Jackrabbits will also be looking to fire up their offense after last week’s disappointing, 20-14 loss to Marianna Lee. The Trojans held Lonoke to a season-low, 210 total yards.

Sophomore Eric Williams led in rushing with nine carries for 76 yards, while senior receiver Darius Scott had five receptions for 82 yards. Senior Logan DeWhitt and junior Terrale Watson split time at quarterback, with DeWhitt going 6 of 10 for 76 yards and an interception while Watson was 3 of 10 for 46 yards and a touchdown.

“They lined up both tight ends and went with a full house, which you know is the type of offense that controls the clock,” Bost said of Marianna Lee. “We had two big fumbles and an interception. You can’t go on the road and do that and expect to win, so that definitely hurt us.”

Watson’s playing time has slowly increased since he first appeared in the Southside Batesville game three weeks ago. He injured his ankle in August after earning the starting job over DeWhitt and has been recovering the past few months.

“Tarrale could give us some more options as far as running the football,” Bost said. “That’s something we might take a look at. I’ve gone back and counted it up, and it’s been 12 weeks that he’s been back after getting injured.”