Wednesday, November 05, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Devils, Lions for state

Leader sports editor

The potential shakeup in the conference standings caused by the possibility of McClellan’s  forfeit of two conference wins weighs heavily into  Thursday’s matchup between the Red Devils and Crimson Lions. But this game in southwest Little Rock will be a spirited one for different reasons.

The Jacksonville-McClellan game has quickly become a heated rivalry in football and basketball, and last year’s game won’t be sitting well with this year’s home team. In a game that was chippy from the start, Jacksonville dominated and won 31-6, but that was a different program. Coach Maurice Moody has things going in the right direction in hi second year. After finishing 1-9 last season, the Lions are officially 3-6, but 5-4 on the field of play.

Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham expects a tough game for his 3-6 Red Devils.

“We’re going to have to play, man,” said Hickingbotham. “They’re good. They have a lot of guys that can run the football, a lot of speed. You have to account for all of them. You can’t let anybody slip through or they can beat you.”

There’s also last year’s game that McClellan will have on its mind. After the game, McClellan returned to its dressing room to find personal items missing. During a confrontation outside the Jacksonville locker room over the missing items, a scuffle broke out. Hickingbotham was not here for that incident, but expects it will provide some extra motivation for his team’s hosts.

“From what I understand, after last year’s game, there’s a lot of interest built up for this one,” Hickingbotham said. “They’re going to get after us. I don’t think playoffs matter that much in this one. They have something to prove even if they can’t get in. They’re going to want to show everyone they’re the team that belongs in there. We want to do the same thing. It’s going to be a big one.”

Jacksonville is coming off a 31-7 victory over Mills; a game Hickingbotham says is his team’s best of the year. Fundamental soundness was the key, and he hopes it continues.

“I’m not sure how much technique they play on defense, they just attack,” Hickingbotham said. “We have to recognize where things are coming from and do the little things right to give us some time to get our plays going. Last week was the first game we didn’t have any fumbles, no major penalties.

“We played a quality football game and that’s a big positive for us. No. 5 (Lamont Gause) had a great game because we blocked for him and did things right. When we give him a chance to do some things, he makes us a whole lot better.”

With all the different scenarios swirling around what happens to the standings with the forfeits, Hickingbotham didn’t want to concern himself with it, channeling his inner Johnny Cochran to portray his message.

“I’m looking at it like this,” Hickingbotham said. “It’s something we can’t control, so we got to go. If we don’t win, we don’t get in.”