Tuesday, November 05, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits seek to keep momentum

Leader sportswriter

Even though Lonoke has already locked up the No. 2 playoff seed out of the 4A-2 Conference, the Jackrabbits will look to finish the regular season on a high note as they travel to Clinton on Friday for a week-10 matchup with the Yellow Jackets. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

“We’ll prepare just like it’s any other game, and get ready to go play ball,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “We want to keep winning. We’d love to be on a nice three-game win streak heading into the playoffs.”

Clinton’s narrow 35-33 win over Heber Springs last week put the Yellow Jackets (4-5, 3-3) back into the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Lonoke (7-2, 5-1) also had a close game last week, beating a scrappy Stuttgart Ricebirds team 20-18 at James B. Abraham Stadium to secure the No. 2 playoff seed.

The Yellow Jackets return 15 starters from last year’s team that finished 2-8, their worst record since 2003. Clinton’s biggest strength on both sides of the ball is at the skill positions, starting with junior quarterback, Fielder Dufrene (5-10, 150).

Dufrene started all 10 games as a sophomore a season ago, and in last year’s regular-season finale at Lonoke, he threw two touchdown passes.

“They’ve got a lot of returning guys,” Bost said. “A lot of their skill guys are back. Their quarterback is the coach’s son. He took a pounding out there last year, running for his life. He is definitely a lot more improved. He’s got some better linemen in there blocking for him.

“They have traditionally over the years been a Wing-T team, and they still base out of that, but they’re doing a whole lot more Spread, and letting the quarterback throw it. They might be as high as 70 percent with them going Spread now. So they’ve got a couple of different formations we’ve got to really look at this week.”

When Clinton lines up in the Wing-T, Bost says the Yellow Jackets have three running backs that get consistent carries, and all three are hard-nosed runners that fit that physical style of offense.

“We’ve just got to really play sound football,” Bost said of his defense. “You get to chasing people going every which way and you’re going to be in the wrong spots. So we have to really read our keys and be in the right spots.”

Defensively, the Yellow Jackets have been seen in three different formations this season, but will primarily line up in a 3-4. The last time Lonoke saw a 3-4 defense was in the conference opener against Heber Springs.

“We’re going to really brush up on that this week,” Bost said.

After losing a close week one matchup with Star City, Lonoke has won seven of its eight games played since, and would like to carry that winning momentum into Clinton on Friday to get ready for what is hoped to be a strong showing in the playoffs, which start next week.

“I think we’ve come a long ways,” Bost said. “We’ve improved week to week, and there were some things that Stuttgart showed us that might have been a weakness that we’re going to work on. So any time you keep improving and getting better, that’s a good thing.”