Tuesday, November 16, 2010

SPORTS>>Wildcats hit home field as Bulldogs board bus

By Jason king
Leader sportswriter

The second round of the Class 3A state playoffs will have local flavor Friday when Bald Knob travels 12 miles south to play the Harding Academy Wildcats at First Security Stadium.

Harding Academy (9-1) had a first-round bye after winning its second straight, 2-3A Conference championship with a perfect run through its conference. Bald Knob (9-2) had an easy time with Lafayette County in its first-round playoff game on Friday and advanced to the second round with a 56-20 victory.

Friday’s matchup is not only a game between teams in close proximity but also with similar offensive philosophies. Harding Academy and Bald Knob are both Spread formation teams.

“They throw the ball well,” Wildcats coach Roddy Mote said. “When they do run, they run well. They’re also very good up front, so it’s hard to find a weakness on that offense. Defensively, they run to the ball well. They’re a good football team.”

The Wildcats’ only loss of the season came in Week 2 against Heber Springs, which lost to the Bulldogs the following week.

Harding Academy opened the season by getting revenge on Fountain Lake in a 28-20 victory after the Cobras knocked the Wildcatsout of the semifinals last year. The Wildcats finished their tough non-conference schedule with an 8-6 victory over former conference rival Des Arc.

There were few challenges for Harding Academy after that.
The Wildcats dominated the 2-3A Conference, winning by an average margin of just over 31 points, including a 37-7 rout of crosstown rival Riverview that essentially decided the conference in Week 8.

“We played a competitive non-conference schedule,” Mote said. “And we played a lot of our tougher conference teams early on. We’re glad to be in the position we’re in; of course, every team still left are good teams. We’re just glad to be one of them.”

The Bulldogs continue to build on the success of their 2009 campaign, which was also their last season in Class 4A.

Bald Knob won 13 consecutive games and claimed the 2-4A Conference title outright before falling to eventual champs Shiloh Christian in the semifinals. It was the first time in school history Bald Knob reached the semifinals.

Despite losing key players from that team, including three-year starter Nick Glaze, who played as a receiver as an underclassman before taking over as quarterback his senior year, the Bulldogs have still played explosive football this year.

Sophomore quarterback Cordell Crisp has proven to be a suitable replacement for Glaze by averaging just over 310 passing yards a game.

While Crisp is still developing a reputation as a big-time quarterback, Wildcats senior Seth Keese has been in that category since his sophomore season.

Keese started slowly after spending much of the offseason recovering from a torn anterior- cruciate ligament suffered in last year’s semifinal, but eventually built the kind of numbers many expected from him.

Through 10 games, Keese is 126 of 189 for 1,538 yards and 15 touchdowns with only three interceptions and a completion percentage of just over 66 percent.

Keese also leads the Wildcats in rushing with 98 carries for 895 yards and 14 touchdowns for 2,433 total yards.

“Seth’s had a great year,” Mote said. “He’s been very efficient. He’s done a great job of managing the offense, and he’s done a great job on defense also.”

With Bald Knob sitting less than 15 miles to the north, Mote expects a great crowd for both programs this week.

“Honestly, it’s two good football teams from White County,” Mote said. “It’s probably going to be a great atmosphere for high-school football. We’re playing at our place, and we’re just hoping for a good evening.”