Tuesday, November 02, 2010

SPORTS>>Lonoke out but not down in last stretch

By Jason king
Leader sportswriter

The defending 4A state runners up are down to playing for pride in the final week of the season, barring some sort of miracle.

Lonoke will host league-leading Clinton in the Jackrabbits’ 2-4A Conference finale at James B. Abraham Field on Friday in a game that could determine the conference champion.

Should Lonoke upset Clinton, the title would most likely go to Heber Springs, who handed Clinton its first loss last week.

But for the Jackrabbits, who are mired in a fifth-place tie with Newport, the battle to earn one of the conference’s four available playoff slots will rely on more than simply posting an upset.

The biggest obstacle for the ’Rabbits is that Newport, the team they are tied with at 3-3 in the conference, has the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage.

And with Newport finishing out its schedule at winless Batesville Southside and Heber Springs, the only postseason hopeful over which Lonoke has a tie breaker, playing host to Cave City, a sense of foreboding is beginning to settle in ’Rabbit country.

“It’s not looking good,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “We could end up 7-3 and not be in the playoffs — that’s terrible.”

Regardless of how the final week of 2-4A games plays out, Clinton has earned a playoff spot with the possibility of being the No. 1 seed or as low as a No. 3. Marianna and Stuttgart, both a game behind the Yellowjackets at 4-2, will meet to answer many of the remaining questions.

There is a long-shot scenario that has Marianna winning the conference if Clinton and Heber Springs lose.

Despite the glum news, the Jackrabbits are still finishing the season at home against an opponent they feel is beatable.

“We’re still going to come out and compete,” Bost said of Friday. “We know it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re going to come out fighting.”

Injuries have hampered Lonoke all season. This week, the passing game and defensive backfield will suffer from the absence of senior receiver/defensive back Blake Dill, who injured his leg in Friday’s loss to Stuttgart.

Bost was in no mood to offer excuses for the three losses in Lonoke’s past five games.

“Turnovers, they kill you,” Bost said. “We’ve had leads at halftime heading into the third quarter, and even had first possession in some of those situations.

“Just being able to sustain drives — and we’ve had a few injuries here and there — we haven’t had any good continuity.”

The Yellowjackets have gotten the most out of their six returning offensive starters and eight on defense. Clinton was picked to finish as low as sixth in some polls, but has rallied around junior quarterback Park Parish, who has led a potent Wing-T power running attack.

“They will get in the spread, and we saw a little bit of that from them last year,” Bost said. 

“But their bread and butter is that power run. Experience goes a long way, and they just got in the offseason and saw how many they had coming back. Now they’re putting it all together.”