Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SPORT STORY >> Carlisle taking on improved Patriots

Leader sportswriter

Carlisle’s homecoming ceremonies will take place on Friday when the Bison kickoff 6-2A Conference play against Palestine-Wheatley at Fred C. Hardke Field.

The Bison (2-0) pulled off a dramatic 22-18 win last week at class 3A Osceola to finish its non-conference schedule.

This week’s challenge won’t be as daunting for Carlisle, but the Patriots have improved from last year’s 1-9 squad with a solid group of sophomores.

“Palestine’s a little better than they were last year,” said Carlisle coach Scott Waymire. “They have some young guys, and have a pretty good group from junior high last year. They’re playing some young linemen, but have two senior backs that they lead with.

“It’s one of those things where we’re going to come out and worry about us right now, because we have some things we need to work on to get better as a team. So those will be the things we’ll focus on this week.”

When asked what the team needs to work on in particular this week, one of the main things Waymire pointed out was finding players to step up and contribute. Injuries have already had an effect on Carlisle’s starters this season, and with some ofits key players banged up, more will be asked of the Bison’s underclassmen.

“We’re getting some of our younger guys some reps to get ready for (Palestine-Wheatley),” Waymire said. “We’re trying to get our number twos ready to go, because now some of our number twos were number three before we started the season. The injury bug’s got us, and we’re just trying to get solid two-deep.”

Junior all-state running back Bo Weddle was lost for the season after tearing his ACL in week two against Mountain Pine. Fellow junior Deron Ricks has carried the load for the Bison since Weddle’s injury.

Last week against the Seminoles, Ricks rushed 19 times for 137 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown. Versatile junior Justice Bryant splits time at receiver and running back on offense. Last week, Bryant contributed in the backfield with 14 carries for 44 yards.

Waymire mentioned that Jordan Sheets and a couple of sophomores could get plenty of reps this week at running back as well. Palestine-Wheatley (1-2) has already matched its win total from a year ago after beating class 3A’s Drew Central 44-20 in week two. Last week the Patriots lost to Piggott 36-6.

“They’re physical and they execute real well,” said Palestine-Wheatley coach Charles Sartin of Carlisle. “They have a lot of experience. Even without Bo they’re the team to beat and everybody knows it. We’re going to try to survive and get past them so we can move on to somebody we can handle.”

If the Bison hope to win big on Friday, the defense will have to focus on senior running backs Gabe Harris and Desmond Ray, who complement each other in the backfield. Harris rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown last year at East Poinsett County. Ray earned all-conference honors in 2011 after rushing for more than 800 yards as a junior.

“We’re better than we were last year,” Sartin said. “Most of the junior high kids moved up and they’re young and inexperienced, but we’re learning and we’re getting a little better every week.”

The Patriots’ numbers are up this year as well. Although Palestine-Wheatley doesn’t have as much depth as Carlisle – even with the number of injuries the Bison have had thus far – 22 players are on this year’s squad. In recent years, the Patriots average around 17.

Carlisle is too skilled all-around to have much trouble with Palestine-Wheatley. But with this week being homecoming, Waymire wants his team to stay focused on the task-at-hand, and not look ahead or get caught up in the festivities.

“One thing we’ll never do is take any opponent lightly or underestimate them,” Waymire said, “because I think that coach Sartin and his staff have gotten better. And they’re turning the corner. Last year they beat us in junior high. So their 10th-graders have a little confidence since beating us.

“We just have to come out and play. If we don’t come out and do our thing it doesn’t matter if we play Palestine or Osceola, we can get beat on any given night. So we’re going to focus on the things we need to do, and go from there.”