Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits’ and Panthers’ seasons alike

Leader sportswriter

There have been a lot of similarities between Lonoke and Heber Springs early in the 2012 season.

Both teams lost their respective season openers to beatable teams, both had their week-two games washed away at halftime, and both the Jackrabbits and Panthers picked up their first wins of the season last week in 38-6 blowouts.

Those similarities will end this Friday when the Panthers visit James B. Abraham Stadium in Lonoke to begin the 4A-2 Conference schedule.

Offensive philosophy is another similarity between the two teams. Lonoke and Heber Springs are both based in a spread offense with the ability to go Wildcat at any time. For the Jackrabbits, that means using senior receiver D.J. Burton behind center, and for the Panthers, it’s senior receiver Clint Ligon.

“I think we’re very similar,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “Both teams can run it or throw it.”

Heber Springs has the ability to go multiple offensively with a number of different passing and running formations. It could be the toughest test yet fora Lonoke defense that has shown drastic improvement after giving up 44 points to Star City in the season opener.

“We made a couple of personnel adjustments,” Bost said of the defense. “And after that first week, we came back and did a lot of hitting. We also changed a couple of things scheme wise to help with the new people who were in there, and so far, it’s worked out. Going up against about 15 different formations this week, it’s going to be important for them to recognize each one and be able to react to it.”

Lonoke enjoyed a balanced night offensively in last Friday’s big victory over Little Rock McClellan. Junior quarterback Grant Dewey completed 11 of 15 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone, while senior tailback Eric Williams carried 20 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns. On the receiving end, junior Blake Mack had five receptions for 112 yards and three touchdowns.

Leading the way defensively on Friday was defensive tackle Bubba Lewis, who recorded a sack along with being a leading tackler, and cornerback Kenny Simpson, who was in position to defend the pass all night, and even had a chance at a couple of interceptions.

“I was really proud of the way the kids came out in the first half,” Bost said. “The defense really came to play and held their offense to zero points in the first half.”

The 4A-2 Conference has been considered deep for a long time, and with the addition of Dollarway High School this season, it has made a tough league even tougher. The Panthers and Jackrabbits have usually been in the mix when it comes to determining playoff spots, making this game an important one for both schools.

“The way this conference is from top to bottom, every game is important,” Bost said. “We hope to have a good week of practice to get ready. Our seniors know how important conference games are, and we told them Saturday that it all starts on Monday to get ready for conference.”