Tuesday, October 09, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> First place on line for Carlisle, Hazen

Leader sportswriter

Since entering 2A-6 Conference play three and a half weeks ago, the Carlisle Bison have dominated the competition. On Friday, Carlisle will face its toughest test to date, the Hazen Hornets, in a game that could decide the eventual conference champion down the road.

Last year in the regular season finale, Carlisle edged out a close 12-8 win at Hazen.

The rivalry between the two teams separated by just a dozen or so miles of Hwy. 70, goes way back, and with this game being played at Fred C. Hardke Field, the Hornets will be looking to steal a win on the road against their arch-rival.

“It was pretty much a defensive struggle,” said Hazen coach Joe Besancon about last year’s loss to the Bison. “I think they did a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage. They made plays when they had to make some plays. We had a costly fumble in the first half when we were driving the ball, and we turned it over. We maybe could’ve turned that into points. I don’t know.”

Carlisle, Hazen and England are in a three-way-tie for first place in the 2A-6 conference with 3-0 records. Des Arc was upset by Palestine-Wheatley last week, putting the Eagles a game back of the top three with a 2-1 record.

Since 2008, the Bison have won three of the last four conference titles, including the last two. Hazen won it in 2009 with a 12-win season.

Barring something drastic happens later in the season, Carlisle (5-0, 3-0) and Hazen (4-2, 3-0) will make the playoffs. But the conference championship, bragging rights and playoff seeding will all be affected by the outcome of Friday night’s contest.

“They’re a very sound ball club and they’re very similar to us,” said Carlisle coach Scott Waymire about Hazen. “They’ll be by far the best team we’ve played in conference thus far. It’s a big rivalry game. It’ll be a great atmosphere. I’ve told several people ‘if they haven’t before, they need to go see a Carlisle-Hazen game.’

“The atmosphere that surrounds that game and the energy on both sides, I just think it’s a great place to be on Friday night. This is a game our guys are going to remember. That’s what we tell our kids, because they know how much it means to both towns. It’s going to be a fight for 48 minutes, and a heck of a ball game. I think for the people that come, they’re definitely going to get their money’s worth.”

Hazen’s all-time leader in career rushing yards (over 4,000) and tackles (484), Matt Tenison, graduated last May. However, the Hornets still have plenty of weapons they hope to utilize against Carlisle.

Junior running back Alundis Mosby has averaged more than a 100 rushing yards per game this year for Hazen. Last week in the Hornets’ 48-14 win at Clarendon, he ran 13 times for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Lucas Tenison, Matt’s little brother, and hardnosed sophomore Trenton Mosby, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in junior high last year, will also contribute in the Hornets’ backfield.

Junior quarterback Gage Johnson has really picked up his game in recent weeks according to Besancon, and has shown he’s the leader of the team.

Hazen is traditionally a run-heavy team like Carlisle, but also like the Bison, the Hornets can mix up formations when necessary. The Hornets’ offense will often start out in a box set, but will go to the spread if they feel as if they have an advantage there.

“We try and find something that will work for us, and we’ll go with that,” Besancon said.

The Hornets’ defense gives multiple looks as well, but will almost always have at least four linemen up front. According to Besancon, the defense could line up four one play, five the next, and six after that.

Carlisle has been stellar on both sides of the ball this season. The Bison have put up an average of 42 points-per-game on offense. Defensively, Carlisle has given up a total of 24 points with three shutouts.

“I tell you what, it’s hard to find a weakness in that bunch,” Besancon said of Carlisle, who’s owned the series as of late with 21 wins over the Hornets since 1988. “I don’t know what the weakness is. They have a lot of guys back from last year’s team that went and played for a state championship. So they have experience in big games.”