Tuesday, October 09, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke hosting powerful Cards

Leader sportswriter

There are a lot of dimensions to this year’s Lonoke Jackrabbits football team, and all of them will have to be put to good use this week as unbeaten Dollarway rolls into James B. Abraham Stadium this Friday for homecoming week.

Last week’s 51-21 victory over Southside Batesville kept the ’Rabbits alive in the fight for a top-four spot in the 4A-2 Conference standings to earn a playoff berth, and also proved to be one of Lonoke’s better offensive performances of the year. Senior D.J. Burton led a strong running attack with 150 yards and three touchdowns as part of a 400-yard performance for the Jackrabbits (3-3, 1-2).

“That was one we told them we really needed to win,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “We played four quarters, and that was the biggest thing for us, was to play it through all the way and finish.”

The Cardinals are looking to repeat last year’s performance that took them all the way to the 4A state semifinals, and appear to be on pace to do just that through the first six games of the 2012 season. Newport did give them a good scare in the league opener, taking the Cardinals to overtime in a close 44-42 decision for Dollarway. But the last two weeks have been dominant for the Cortez Lee-coached Cardinals, who beat Marianna-Lee and Clinton by a combined 110-7 to up their overall record to 6-0 and their 4A-2 record to 3-0.

“They’re a solid football team,” Bost said. “They return a lot of starters. Looking at them on film, we think there are some things we can do against them.”

Burton stepped up last week when he was needed most with junior quarterbacks Nick Watson and Grant Dewey both injured. Burton, who is officially listed as a receiver, was Lonoke’s starting quarterback last year, and has successfully run the Wildcat offense for the Jackrabbits on many occasions this season.

“We’ve been working with D.J.’s package as much as we have the other two guys,” Bost said. “He went in last week and didn’t miss a beat. He picked up right where he left off last year.” Bost said the power-running game will be essential against Dollarway, as the iCardinals’ speed on defense will make it difficult to advance the ball using sweeps.

“They’re multiple on defense,” Bost said. “I think they’re going to do what Dollarway does, and that’s play man and put six or seven in the box trying to stop the run. You kind of know what you’re going to get with them.”

Another dimension that has given Lonoke a boost this year is a stronger kicking game thanks to junior Jose Garcia, who kicked the first Jackrabbits’ field goal in well over a decade last Friday just before halftime to give them a 21-14 lead.

The margin increase was minimal, but the momentum gained from Garcia’s kick helped fuel a fierce second-half performance for Lonoke.

“That was a big momentum booster for us,” Bost said. “We haven’t had a great kicking game over the years, and that young man has come in and taken the time to develop his game. He goes out to the practice field on his own time and practices a couple of hours every day, and it’s really made a difference for us.”