Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SPORTS >> Bison face powerhouse Friday

Leader sports editor

After a week off due to a first-round bye, Carlisle jumps into the deep end of the class 2A state football playoffs. First up for the Bison is perennial power house Danville, who is 9-2 overall this season, with its only losses to class 4A rival Dardanelle, conference nemesis and defending state champion Magazine.

Danville finished 13-2 last season and both losses were to Magazine.

Their conference showdown last year ended 28-24. Magazine won the championship game 48-20.

When they met this season, Magazine won 35-28. The Little Johns are the only team to play Magazine, who is riding a 25-game winning streak, within four touchdowns this year.

Danville and Carlisle are similar in several ways. Both teams are loaded with experienced players and both have several weapons at the skill positions.

The Little Johns return 16 starters from last year’s runner up team. While they like to spread the ball around, the primary weapon is senior tailback Sean Tyra. He has about 1,100 yards this season and 18 touchdowns.

“I really feel like we’re pretty balanced, but he’s leading us in yardage, and he’s a good leader for us too,” Danville coach D.J. Crane said.

Another similarity is the diversified offenses the two teams feature. Carlisle has become a bit more diversified this season, while Danville has been running multiple sets for some time.

“We base most of what we do out of the pro set, but really we’re multiple on offense,” Crane said.

Carlisle doesn’t have many starters returning from last year’s semifinal team that was also eliminated by Magazine.

What the Bison do have is 13 seniors, including seven returning starters, who have stepped into their role as leaders with passion.

“What I see as a key strength to that team is a team that is very disciplined,” Crane said of Carlisle. They are very well coached and they play very, very hard. One of our biggest challenges is going to be matching the intensity that they play with.”

While intangibles play their role in football games, players are the big issue. Crane sees a few items of concern there as well.

“They have a good group of skill kids,” Crane said. “The defense is really sound, and they have linemen that really play hard.”

When focusing on how to stop the Bison, Crane acknowledges they have several weapons, but still believes there is a focus.

“Definitely the Weddle kid,” Crane said. “He has a lot of talent. Defensively if they had one kid that stood out it would also be him. I also think big number 73 (junior Clayton Fields) and number 5 (sophomore Deron Ricks) stood out in my mind.”

Crane also acknowledges that having so many returning starters from such a successful team is a plus.

“Well definitely experience is a big strength for us,” Crane said. “Being able to play in a big game, this group knows what that’s like. We’ve played in big games on the road, too. Having done it before certainly helps eliminate some of those distractions you get the first time.”