Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bison face same style, only faster

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison will look to take one step closer toward their postseason dream Friday when they host Conway Christian in the second round of the class 2A state football playoffs. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Conway Christian (6-5), the No. 4 seed from the 2A-5 Conference, advanced to the second round after upsetting Walnut Ridge, the No. 2 seed from the 2A-3 Conference, 36-28 last week in northeast Arkansas.

Like Carlisle (10-1), the Eagles like to run the ball, but unlike the Bison, they do it primarily from the Spread formation. The Bison defense held Marked Tree’s Spread offense to 211 yards last week, but Carlisle coach Brandon Barbaree says Conway Christian’s skill players could pose different problems than the ones that gave his team little trouble last week.

“I tell you what, as far as their skill guys, I wouldn’t say they’re big, but they’re extremely fast,” said Barbaree. “They do look quick on film. They make plays against the ball. They make people miss in space, especially on the films we have. We’re really going to have to be fundamentally sound, be good tacklers this week, and keep everything in front of us.”

Some of the Eagle playmakers Barabree said stood out on film is senior quarterback Chandler Ferrand, and running backs Andrew Steely and Casey Roark. Ferrand is a true dual threat at quarterback. He was an All-Conference receiver a season ago, but has been solid throughout the 2013 season taking snaps, and hurting opposing defenses with both his arm and legs.

Ferrand has rushed for 1,101 yards and passed for 1,567 yards in the 11 games played. He’s even lined upat receiver at times, as he’s totaled 536 receiving yards this season as well.

“He’s dangerous, no doubt,” Barbaree said of Ferrand. “He’s the real deal back there.”

Defensively, Barbaree said the Eagles on film often line up in a three man front, but will bring their outside linebackers up to the line to make it look like a 5-2.

“They look really aggressive on the outside with those outside linebackers,” Barbaree said. “Inside, they’ve got some big kids. Caleb Dather is a pretty good football player. He’s another senior for them – a big kid, 6-4; 220. They’re physical up front.

“Typical Spread teams, sometimes you’ll say they’re not physical. But these guys, they play hard. They got after two run-base teams in the films we’ve seen against Bigelow and Walnut Ridge, and they beat them up front. That’s how they won those two games.”

Dather was an All-State selection at defensive end a season ago. Even though Barbaree and his team are giving Conway Christian well-deserved credit for its solid play as of late, Carlisle is considered the overwhelming favorite by more than one publication.

One of those publications has picked the Bison to win by at least 21 points Friday. Perhaps part of the reasoning for that is the Bison appear to be getting healthy at the right time, especially in the backfield.

Running backs Bo Weddle, Justice Bryant and Chance Richards were bothered by nagging injuries at the tail end of the regular season, but all three are expected to be back and near full strength for Friday’s game, along with other key players that have missed playing time as of late because of various injuries.

“It was good that we took care of what we were supposed to take care of, and got to play everybody,” Barbaree said about last week’s win over Marked Tree. “We got in our sophomores and our freshmen, and really saved our seniors who’ve had a bunch of carries and have played in a bunch of big games. They got out early.

“It was good to rest those guys some. We’ve got a lineman coming back – Jaden Daniels will be back from a concussion. We’ll have Cory Hart back from an ankle injury. Both of those guys provide us depth on offense, defense and special teams. So we should have just about everybody back.”