Tuesday, November 06, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Old foes meet in playoffs yet again

Leader sportswriter

Some teams just can’t seem to avoid each other.

Such is the case with Lonoke and its Class 4A first-round playoff opponent Warren this week. The Jackrabbits and Lumberjacks have faced off five times in the postseason since 2004. Lonoke won the most recent meeting between the two teams back in 2009 on its way to the 4A state championship game, but repeating that success will be quite the task this Friday against a Warren squad which swept the 4A-8 conference quite easily.

That Lumberjacks’ 7-0 league mark was quite a turnaround from its 0-3 start that included a one-point loss to Shiloh Christian and blowout losses to class 5A’s top two teams, Pulaski Academy and Camden Fairview.

Lonoke (6-4) will travel to Jim Hurley Stadium to face Warren (7-3) at 7 p.m. this Friday.

“I don’t know how playoff brackets work out that way,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “We’ve played each other five times since’04, and it’s always a battle for sure.”

The Jackrabbits’ late season surge did not come in time to improve their playoff seeding, leaving them stuck with an undesirable No. 5 seed, but a 28-7 victory over then top-ranked Stuttgart has given Lonoke plenty of respect around the state entering the postseason.

The Jackrabbits backed that performance up with a 55-28 spanking of Clinton last week. The Yellowjackets cleaned up the score somewhat in the late going with a pair of quick passing touchdowns against what was essentially Lonoke’s junior-varsity defense.

The Jackrabbits secured a mercy rule early in the third quarter, and gave many of their starters a rest.

That led to the cheap scores by Clinton, but it also gave Bost a chance to evaluate younger players. One player in particular who stood out on the offensive side was sophomore running back Devin Moseley, who helped Lonoke keep the chains moving in the fourth quarter with strong inside running.

“He played on the offensive line the last three years (in junior high),” Bost said. “But he said he wanted a shot at playing running back. I’ll tell you, he gives us the best look on our scout team offense every week. I’m pretty excited about him.”

But the biggest gains on the night came from senior running back Eric Williams, who scored five touchdowns against the Yellowjackets with over 200 yards rushing. Lonoke’s running game as a whole has been unstoppable for opponents of late.

“We want to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Bost said. “When the running game is going, you’ve got the play-action passes, so you can work that when the run is good, but right now, we like the direction we’ve been going.”

Defensive play has also been a plus for Lonoke after holding Stuttgart and dynamic quarterback Dontrell Brown to a single score two weeks ago.

The Jackrabbits have made a habit of shutting down premier backs in the last half of the regular season, including Southside Batesville standout Jordan Childress.

“The defense has just been lights out,” Bost said. “Last week, we were trying to get as many second-teamers out there as we could. Most of them got about a quarter and a half out there.”

The success of Lonoke’s passing game this week will depend on the availability of leading receiver Blake Mack. Mack, who has 30 receptions for 712 yards and eight touchdowns so far this season, suffered a sprained ankle early in the Clinton game and did not play after the first series.

Mack was expected back in practice Monday, but Bost said he was going to be cautious with the athletic junior.

Defensively, the Jackrabbits return one key player while losing another.

Lineman Styver Hamric returns after an early-season injury that dislocated his knee cap, but defensive tackle Nelson Brown came out of the Clinton game with a torn meniscus, and will be out for the rest of the season.