Tuesday, November 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bison see a familiar style from Rison team

Leader sportswriter

Friday night’s class 2A quarterfinal matchup will be a battle of smash mouth running games, as Rison, the No. 3 seed from the dominant 2A-8 Conference, will make the trip to Fred C. Hardke Field to take on the Carlisle Bison.

Neither team has faced much adversity since the playoffs began almost three weeks ago. The Wildcats (9-3) dominated Mountainburg 52-6 before beating 2A-5 champion Magnet Cove 36-14 last week.

The Bison (11-1) had little trouble in their postseason opener against Marked Tree, winning that one 38-6 before running for more than 500 yards in a 48-26 win over Conway Christian last week at home.

“I think they’re pretty good,” said Carlisle coach Brandon Barbaree. “I think they’re pretty good up front. They’re real senior laden on the offensive line. They’ve used a lot of young kids on defense, which they have a big roster for a Rison football team.

“Usually, Rison is around the upper 20s or right at the 30s. This year, they have 41 kids on their roster, and they play a lot of kids. That’s what worries me the most is they’re going to keep a lot of those bodies fresh.”

The Wildcats used that depth to secure the No. 3 seed out of a conference that’s featured the last two class 2A state champions in Junction City and Strong, and four teams from that conference are still alive in the 2013 playoffs.

Rison, Junction City, Strong and Bearden are the four 2A-8 teams still standing. Junction City and Bearden played for last year’s state title, and are once again the top two seeds from that conference this year. The two teams remaining from the 2A-6 are Carlisle and league champion Des Arc, who handed the No. 2 seed Bison their only loss this season.

Leading Rison’s offense is senior quarterback Nathan Wilson (5-8, 160), who rushed for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns last year as a junior. He passed for just 340 yards in 2012, but threw eight touchdowns. His ability to read defenses and make quick decisions with the football is a skill that stands out to Barbaree.

“He’s the all-time leading rusher for a quarterback at Rison,” Barbaree said of Wilson. “That’s a big deal for a place that tradition-rich. They’re probably one of the top five or six winningest programs in the state – maybe a little bit higher than that.

“He’s their leader. He runs it quite a bit, but when he throws, usually it’s a completion. They may only throw it two or three times a game, but it’s usually for big plays.”

In the past, Rison has been a Veer-type of offensive team, but Barbaree says this year’s team likes to run a lot of lead isolation plays, and will try and get outside with sweep plays. Like Carlisle, Rison’s success in the running game is based on whether or not its linemen can win the battle in the trenches.

Other than Wilson, the playmakers in the Wildcats’ backfield are running backs Zuntario Oliver and JoKenzie Broughton. Oliver (6-0, 175; 4.8 speed) racked up nearly 700 yards rushing a season ago, and in that time averaged 4.7 yards per carry, 25 yards per reception and 16 yards per kickoff return.

Broughton ran for 799 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, and averaged a whopping 14 yards per carry. The senior is the Wildcats’ leading rusher this season, and ran for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns in the postseason opener against Mountainburg.

“He looks like a workhorse on film,” Barbaree said of Broughton, “and he’s another senior. So you know he’s been through some battles.”

On film, Barbaree has seen Rison in a 4-3 defense most of the time, and says the young players the Wildcats use on that side of the ball play with a high motor, and have a lot of athleticism, especially on the line.

However, considering the Bison like to pound the ball down opposing defense’s throats with their powerful run game, Barbaree says his team is getting ready to see even more Wildcats stacked up front come Friday.

“We’re prepared for a five and six front,” Barbaree said. “I don’t know what personnel will be up there, but I know they’ll get after it, and it should be a heck of a game.”

Kickoff for Friday’s quarterfinal matchup is at 7 p.m.