Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Bison face revenge-minded foe

Leader sportswriter

Carlisle’s dominant performance last week in the opening round of the class 2A state playoffs means the Bison will travel to Lepanto on Friday for a third-straight playoff showdown with East Poinsett County.

The Bison (9-1), the No. 2 seed from the 2A-6 Conference, have eliminated the Warriors (10-1) from the playoffs the past two years. In 2010, Carlisle sent EPC home in the second round with a 34-28 overtime win. In last year’s semifinals, the Bison won 34-7. Both wins were at Fred C. Hardke Field. This time Carlisle will have to get it done on the road.

“They’re real similar to where they’ve been the past two years, just real athletic,” said Carlisle coach Scott Waymire of the Warriors. “They have a lot of weapons on the field offensively and they fly around on defense. I think their O-line and D-line are as good as they’ve been in the past three years that we’ve seen them.

“So we definitely have our hands full this week. Hopefully we can go down there and play well, and get a chance to play at home next week.”

Last week against Norphlet, who was the No. 4 seed from the tough 2A-8 Conference, East Poinsett County dominated on both sides of the ball en route to a 52-14 win. The Warrior defense forced six turnovers in the game.

In his first start on defense, freshman safety Malik Monk recovered a fumble and returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore playmaker Aaron Scales, who’s also the starting quarterback, also returned an interception for a touchdown.

East Poinsett County, the No. 2 seed from the 2A-3 Conference, racked up 367 yards of offense in the game, 265 of which came on the ground.

The Warriors’ spread attack has averaged 38 points per game this season. In the regular season, Scales completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,125 yards and 19 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He also rushed for more than 500 yards.

“He’s been great,” said East Poinsett County coach Brian Weathers about his sophomore quarterback. “I think he’s played like a sophomore one time this year. Other than that, he’s looked like an experienced veteran out there. He’s a very level-headed kid, very smart kid, extremely athletic, and an extremely good leader. He’s going to have to have a good game for us to be successful on Friday.”

Other than Scales, the Warriors have three running backs with at least 400 yards rushing this season, and another that has totaled more than 350. Carlisle’s offense counters with a physical line led by senior All-State tackle Clayton Fields.

The Bison also have a plethora of running backs, led by junior Deron Ricks, who eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the season last week against Mount Ida. Weathers was quick to point out that stopping Ricks, and winning the battle up front would be necessary if the Warriors expect to win Friday. But Weathers also said finding ways to disrupt senior quarterback Chris Hart is a key factor as well.

Last week, Hart completed 70 percent of his passes for 118 yards and ran 10 times for 47 yards and three touchdowns. For the year, Hart’s completed 65 percent of his passes and has thrown just two interceptions.

“Their quarterback this year looks like he’s a little more involved in the offense compared to years past,” Weathers said. “He looks like he has a pretty good hand. First and foremost, when you’re playing a Carlisle team you have to stop the run. We haven’t been able to do that the past couple of years.

“Offensively for us, it’s kind of the same deal. We have our share of athletes and playmakers, but if that defensive line is a yard or two deep in the backfield, there’s not a whole lot we can do. So we’ve got to be able to create opportunities, and make running lanes there so we can make plays.”

The Warriors’ defense has given up an average of 14 points per game this season. It should make for an interesting matchup as the Bison offense has averaged a 2A-6 best 40 points per game. Defensively, Carlisle has given up an average of seven points per game for the year.

Each team has had its share of injuries throughout the season, but both sides expect to be close to 100 percent by Friday. Bison starting center Christian Cotton sat out last week with a nagging shoulder injury. Waymire hopes he’ll be ready to go on game day.

“We beat those guys in the semifinals last year, and in the second round the year before that,” Waymire said. “So for their seniors, their season’s been ended by us the past two years. They’ve got that revenge factor on their mind, and we have to come to their place. We definitely have to be ready to play 48 minutes, because I think it’s going to be a ball game, and it’s going to be won late.”

Kickoff starts at 7 p.m., and the winner will move on to the quarterfinals to play the Poyen/Mineral Springs winner next Friday.