Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Maumelle’s speed equals Jackrabbits’

Leader sportswriter

After earning their first playoff win since 2009 last week, the Lonoke Jackrabbits will look to push their current win streak to five games on Friday when they host Maumelle, the No. 2 seed from the 4A-4 Conference, in the second round of the class 4A state football playoffs. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The Jackrabbits (9-2) have actually already played the Hornets (9-2) this year, when the two teams squared off in a preseason scrimmage at Maumelle High School in late August. However, not much could be taken away from that exhibition, as the game itself was reduced to just 20 total minutes with a continuous clock.

Taking that into consideration, it wasn’t difficult to point out who the Hornets’ playmakers are, even in the very limited time both offenses had on the field that day. Maumelle has six players that run at least a 4.5 40-yard dash, and as a team, the Hornets are one of the few left standing that can match the Jackrabbits’ speed and athleticism at the skill positions.

“They’re a good football team,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost of Maumelle. “They’ve got a lot of speed. We’re expecting a dog fight come Friday night.”

Lonoke and Maumelle both won their first-round games convincingly last week. The Jackrabbits ran all over Pocahontas en route to a 49-7 win at home, while the Hornets beat Stuttgart 31-10 at their place.

The Ricebirds narrowly fell to Lonoke 20-18 in week nine of the regular season, and if the ’Rabbits expect to survive another week, Bost knows his defense will need to contain the Hornets’ playmakers, starting with junior quarterback Tyshaun Robinson.

“It all starts with their quarterback,” Bost said. “That’s their player. If you get any kind of pressure on him, he’s going to take off running or if he doesn’t find somebody down field he likes, he’s going to take off running. It definitely starts with him. That’s the one you’re going to have to be able to contain.”

Robinson ran 16 times for 109 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 21-point win. Some of the other Maumelle players Bost was quick to point are senior running back Corry Cullins and junior receiver J.B. Minix.

Cullins also had a big game last week, as he ran for 101 yards and a score on just nine carries.

It’s very difficult to simulate speed, but at least the Lonoke defense won’t have too much to prepare for this week, because Maumelle and Lonoke both primarily run the Spread offense. Like the Jackrabbits, the Hornets break most of their big plays by running the ball from that formation, but Bost said they’re about 50/50 with their run/pass plays.

Defensively, Bost said Maumelle will primarily line up in a 4-4, and will blitz from every direction. It’s not a style of defense that the Jackrabbit offense hasn’t seen this year, as Bost compared the Hornets’ speed and style of play in the secondary to that of Newport and Dollarway.

“Newport blitzed us a lot, and that’s what Maumelle’s going to do,” Bost said. “They’re very similar to both of those teams, Dollarway and Newport. That’s what we’ve seen on film, and that’s how they played us in the scrimmage. It’s a 4-4, and they’re not going to be afraid to send them.

“They’re going to be coming from every which way. Their defensive linemen just blow and go up field. We’re going to have to stay on our blocks.”

Since Lonoke lost to Dollarway in week seven, the Jackrabbits have reeled off four-straight wins, and appear to be getting better with each passing week. Bost hopes this Jackrabbit team can continue progressing, and perhaps play their best game to date against Maumelle.

“We’re on a four-game win streak,” Bost said. “We got that loss to Dollarway a few weeks back. Since then, we’ve rebounded from that. We keep showing up each week with good attitudes, and ready to keep on working hard, and keep on advancing. So we’re hoping for another good week this week as we get ready for Maumelle to come to town.”