Monday, November 19, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle trying to get back to semis

Leader sportswriter

With last week’s 37-20 second round playoff win over East Poinsett County on the road, the Carlisle Bison return to Fred C. Hardke Field on Friday for a class 2A quarterfinal matchup with Mineral Springs.

The Hornets have won big over the last month, and have gotten better each week. Since losing to 2A-7 Conference foe Murfreesboro in week seven of the regular season, Mineral Springs has won five straight as its offense has averaged 52 points per game during the stretch.

Mineral Springs’ defense has given up only 14 points over the past five weeks. Last week, the Hornets, the No. 3 seed from its conference, eliminated Poyen with a 48-8 win. In the opening round of the playoffs, Mineral Springs beat 2A-6 Conference member England 54-6. The same England team Carlisle beat 30-14 the week before.

“They’re real athletic,” said Carlisle coach Scott Waymire about this week’s opponent. “They have an athletic quarterback, and they have some athletic big boys at the skill positions. They have a senior running back that’s rushed for over 5,000 yards (career) in Rashad Williams. So they definitely have some good athletes down there and they’re big up front.”

Carlisle’s defense will have to prepare to stop Mineral Springs’ spread offense, but fortunately for the Bison, they got a head start as far as preparation goes last week as they faced East Poinsett County’s spread attack. Although Carlisle is facing a different team, in many ways the Bison will have the same approach in practice this week.

“They have all the things you want if you’re on their side,” Waymire said of the Hornets. “They’re going to spread the ball out and the offense kind of runs through the Williams kid and their quarterback (Kendrick Langston). Both of those guys have real good hands, and you have to stop those guys. There are a lot of similarities to what we faced with EPC.”

Waymire went on to say the biggest thing for his team this week will be to eliminate big plays. Against England, the Hornets broke loose for several big plays. Williams ran for 147 yards against the Lions and senior wide receiver Evante Evans made plays on both sides of the ball.

Evans caught a 54-yard touchdown pass, ran 9 yards for a touchdown, and returned an interception 70 yards for a score. Other than giving up big plays on offense, the Bison will need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, which has been a key factor to Carlisle’s success this season and in year’s past.

The Bison defensive front will have its hands full this week as Mineral Springs’ two starting tackles are listed at 6-foot-2, and weigh around 315 pounds. Senior Derrick Muldrow, who has a 530-pound squat, anchors the right side, and junior Ju’marcus Lacy controls the blind side.

Carlisle’s offense was more run-heavy last week at EPC, and junior Deron Ricks’ physical style of running wore down the Warrior defense in the second half. Ricks had the majority of Carlisle’s 288 yards of offense with 180 yards rushing and one touchdown on 17 carries.

Justice Bryant was also a big-time contributor in the backfield as he rushed 15 times for 79 yards and two scores. The Hornets run a 4-3 on defense, with Muldrow and Lacy starting at the two defensive tackle positions.

Both are returning starters at the position, and last season Muldrow led the Hornets with 113 tackles with 29 of those being for loss, and was named the Southwest Arkansas Defensive Player of the Year by the Texarkana Gazette.

Carlisle (10-1) and Mineral Springs (9-3) have gotten healthy at the right time as well. Williams was banged up a few weeks ago, but is back at full strength for the Hornets, and Carlisle’s starting center Christian Cotton returned to the line last week after sitting out the first round opener against Mount Ida with a shoulder injury.

“This time of year if you’re ever fortunate enough to play past Thanksgiving, it’s supposed to get difficult,” Waymire said. “A lot of things right now are based on breaks, based on health. And if you can stay healthy and your kids still enjoy playing this time of year, and want to keep fighting and playing, then good things happen.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the winner of Friday’s game will play the Bearden/Magnet Cove winner in the semifinals.