Tuesday, October 30, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle battling England for second

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison hope to finish the regular season on a high note Friday when the England Lions visit Fred C. Hardke Field in Carlisle.

With the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage in the opening round of the class 2A state playoffs on the line, the two respective teams still have a lot to play for. In order for the Bison to get the win against an athletic England team, Carlisle coach Scott Waymire knows his team needs to approach this week as if it were a playoff game.

“It’s a big rivalry game, and there’s a lot at stake in this,” said Waymire about Friday’s regular season finale against England. “Whoever wins gets a chance to host a playoff game. So for our seniors, it’s a chance to play at home one last time.”

Other than a close 22-18 non-conference win in week three at class 3A Osceola and a heartbreaking 16-14 loss at home in week seven against archrival Hazen, the Bison have dominated the competition.

Carlisle’s offense has scored a 2A-6-high 333 points this season, and its defense has allowed a conference-low 44 points through nine games. Even though Carlisle has been without all-state junior running back Bo Weddle, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL in week two against Mountain Pine, the Bison running game has been punishing on their opponents.

Deron Ricks stepped in as the lead back after Weddle’s injury and has carried the load admirably. Ricks is approaching 1,000 yards on the ground this season, but isn’t the only Bison in the backfield that has been a deep contributor.

Carlisle’s double wing offense has given players like Justice Bryant, Clinton Hampton, Jordan Sheets and others opportunities to make plays in the backfield to help take some of the focus off of Ricks. Another thing that has helped the Bison running game has been an effective passing game.

Senior quarterback Chris Hart has consistently made plays through the air in 2012. Last week at Des Arc, Hart completed 7 of 11 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions. That kind of balance and consistency is what Waymire believes will be effective against England, who will often line up with a 6-2 front on defense.

“They’re very aggressive and very fast,” Waymire said of the Lions’ defense. “I thought they controlled the line of scrimmage last week against Hazen. We’re going to have to play a good ball game. We’ve been a little more multiple the past couple of weeks offensively, trying to see what they (our opponents) want to try to slow down.

“Whatever they try to put their emphasis on all week, hopefully we can recognize that and try and exploit some weaknesses if they have any, and take what they give us.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bison have a lot to plan for. According to Waymire, the Lions’ offense is very multiple, and will line up in as many 24 different formations.

“They do a lot of different things,” Waymire said, “and they try to isolate their playmakers and get them the ball in space. They have a very talented quarterback in Tyrik Harris, who could be the best athlete in the conference. He can do so many things to hurt you with his feet and arm. So we’re going to have to try and corral him, and do our best to contain him.

“We can’t give up big plays. They have enough athletes that it doesn’t matter if it’s fourth-and-3 or fourth-and-13. They have the ability to convert and get first downs. So we can’t give up the big play, and on the offensive side, we just have to execute, secure the football, and take advantage of whatever they give us.”

If Carlisle (7-1, 5-1) beats England (7-2, 5-1) on Friday, the Bison will host Mount Ida in the opening round of the playoffs next Friday. If England wins, the Bison travel to Mineral Springs as the No. 3 seed.