Tuesday, November 01, 2011

SPORTS >> Little riding on Devils, Patriots

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s playoff position is set, so little was lost in the defeat last week at West Memphis. This week’s regular-season finale at home against Marion will change nothing about that playoff positioning, regardless of the outcome. That doesn’t mean the Red Devils won’t be focused and hopeful of getting the horrible performance of last week behind them.

Plus, this Thursday’s matchup is senior night, and it’s always a goal to send the seniors out on a high note.

Against Marion, Jacksonville faces another running team similar to West Memphis. The Patriots’ Tre Franklin has rushed for 1,335 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. He is 6’1”, 215 pounds and described by Marion coach Mark Uhiren as a workhorse.

He leads a trio of backs that have put together phenomenal individual seasons. The other two backs are also approaching 1,000 yards this season.

Cory Garrett has 822 yards and 10 touchdowns. Rashad Boyd has run for 770 yards and 12 scores.

“We’ve moved the ball pretty well this year,” Uhiren said. “We’ve had trouble putting it in the end zone in a couple of games, but we’re moving the ball pretty well.”

Marion is coming off a 13-12 loss to Jonesboro that it wishes it could have back.

“That was one of those times,” Uhiren said about his squad not scoring, despite piling up the yards. His squad led 12-0 at halftime, but penalties and turnovers in the red zone thwarted second-half scoring opportunities.

“We aren’t real happy about the other night,” Uhiren said. “That was a tough one to take. “All we can do is put the air in the wheels again and get back after it. Jacksonville is always a tough team to play and it’s usually a pretty impactful game.”

This year the game probably doesn’t mean much in terms of impacting playoff seedings. Marion will likely be the No. 3 seed from the 6A East regardless of Thursday’s outcome.

In order for the Patriots to move up, they would have to beat Jacksonville, then hope that one or more improbable scenarios occur.

If Mountain Home beats Searcy or LR Hall beats Jonesboro, the Patriots would move up to the No. 2 seed. If both happened, the Patriots would be the top seed from the East.

First thing first though, they have to beat Jacksonville. Uhiren doesn’t expect things to be easy, though his team will be favored.

“You have to get ready for two different offenses against Jacksonville,” Uhiren said. “I’m not sure why they’re running two quarterbacks and two offenses, and don’t care. I just know we have to be ready to stop both. They have some speed at running back and receiver, and they use their wide receivers as running backs a lot. You have to account for every skill player on the field because they’re libel to give it to any one of them.”

Marion has seen another threat develop over the course of the season. Tight end and defensive lineman Darius Rosser has become a force on both sides of the ball, and has emerged as the team’s top college prospect. At 6-foot-4, 280, Uhiren understands why.

“He’s pretty athletic and any kid that size who’s got a little athleticism is going to get some attention. He’s come on really strong and done a really good job for us this year.”