By JASON KING
Nothing helps the healing process like homecoming week.
Lonoke will host its second winless opponent in as many weeks when Cave City comes to James B. Abraham Stadium on Friday.
The Jackrabbits handily defeated Southside Batesville 50-14 last week without the services of three senior starters, but coach Doug Bost expects receiver/defensive back Wes Plummer and all-purpose player Darius Scott to return, and hopes lineman Justin Carpenter will also be ready to go.
“He wants to play really bad — it’s homecoming,” Bost said of Carpenter. “We’re just not sure right now.”
The Cavemen (0-6, 0-3 2-4A Conference) have a run-oriented offense and use the Double-wing formation similar to that of 5A Vilonia.
“Their offense is a concern for us,” Bost said. “They have their linemen and tight ends foot to foot, and they’re coming right at you. They’ve got a big old fullback, and you have a lot of misdirection — a lot of double handoffs.
“They’re huge on film. Their line is as large as Heber’s, and that’s the biggest line we’ve seen this year. They definitely fire off on the hole.”
Another similarity between the Southerners and the Cavemen is their defensive philosophies.
“From what we’ve seen on film, they run that 3-5-3, which is exactly what Batesville ran against us,” Bost said. “That was really our first time to see that was last week. So that would be good if we were able to see that last week and have to see it again this week.”
The Jackrabbits (5-1, 2-1) let the Southerners hang around longer than many expected with a modest, 28-14 halftime lead before dominating the second half.
“We came out flat in the first half,” Bost said. “But the O-line kicked it in there in the second half. They opened some big holes for us.”
The theme last week was new players emerging as big-play contributors.
Scott’s absence on offense gave more chances for sophomore running back Eric Williams, who carried 17 times for 170 yards, and sophomore receiver D.J. Burton, who had five catches for 103 yards.
“We had to try some new things because of the injury situation,” Bost said. “Eric Williams I think had about 10 carries all season before last week, and D.J. Burton had one reception, but last week, he catches for 103 yards.
“It was good to get those guys more familiar with the system and get them into a more productive role.”
Senior defensive back Justin Smith has been a strong part of the Jackrabbits’ upperclassmen-led secondary for the past two seasons, and had the game of his career last week with three interceptions and a fumble recovery, all but one which led to Lonoke scores.
“Justin’s been a two-year kid who’s started for us,” Bost said. “He’s just one of those kids that does everything right. I think he had one interception through the first five games. He’s a good senior leader, and he’s been a real good football player for us.”
Some coaches chafe at the distraction that goes with homecoming week, but Bost said it is simply one in a long line of potential focus-busters.“You’ve got something going on every week that’s distracting,” Bost said. “That group of seniors last year, they lost their homecoming, so this bunch, I think they’ll be ready come game time.”