Tuesday, November 11, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke facing hard-nosed Tigers

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits won four of their last five regular-season games to earn the No. 4 playoff seed from their conference, which means they’ll travel to northwest Arkansas for the first round of the Class 4A playoffs to take on Prairie Grove, the No. 3 seed from the 4A-1 Conference.

Prairie Grove has had its share of success in recent years. Since 2011, the Tigers have won a total of 36 games, and they return a total of 10 starters from last year’s conference championship team.

Offensively, the Tigers are a run-first team, and base out of the Wing-T formation, something they’ve done since longtime coach Danny Abshier has been at the school.

“Their coach has been there I want to say 20-something years and they are a Wing-T team,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “They’ve got two good running backs, (No.) 20 and 23. They’re real good. They want to run the ball and they want to run it right at you.”

The two Tiger running backs Bost mentioned are seniors Bobby Catt (5-9, 210) and Eli Lopez (5-7, 160). Catt and Lopez each ran for touchdowns in last week’s regular-season finale, a 26-point win over nearby rival Lincoln.

Catt leads the Tigers’ stable of backs after pacing the backfield last season with nearly 1,000 yards rushing, and although Lopez didn’t carry the ball as much a season ago, he’s earned himself plenty of carries in 2014.

Another offensive weapon the Tigers have is tight end prospect Dylan Soehner (6-6, 265). The athletic junior quarterbacked the 8-1 junior high team two years ago, and in the spring, he received college interests.

“The tight end is definitely their biggest guy,” Bost said of Soehner. “We heard he’s been getting some D-1 offers. He’s a big ole tight end. They’ll split him out some at receiver and throw the jump ball to him. They want to get the ball to him.”

Lonoke’s conference consists primarily of Spread teams these days, but the Jackrabbits have seen the Wing-T in the past. Clinton, who left the 4A-2 Conference before the start of this season, runs that offense as well, which gives the Jackrabbits an idea of what they’ll be going up against Friday night.

“The best team to compare them to is Clinton,” Bost said. “They were in our conference all those years and that’s who we compare them to. They can jump in the Spread, too, if they want to, just like Clinton did. But they’re mostly just a Wing-T team.

“Our kids have played Clinton from seventh grade all the way through high school. So it’s good that we have seen that.”

Defensively, the Tigers (6-3) like to give multiple looks and get after the quarterback with their different blitz schemes, which is something that gave Lonoke’s offense trouble early in the season.

“They’re going to give you different looks and blitz a lot,” Bost said. “That’s something we haven’t really seen since Newport and Helena. Riverview blitzed us a little bit the other night.

“They’ll base in a 3-4 or 3-5. They send two or three linebackers every play, so we’re going to have to do a good job this week of picking them up, because they’re going to bring them.”

Lonoke’s playoff chances looked relatively slim at the midway point of the season, but the Jackrabbits (5-5) have turned things around in a big way, and Bost feels good about his team’s chances entering Friday’s first round.

“We feel real good,” Bost said. “We won four of the last five, and we were able to win the games we needed to win to get the four seed. We like our draw. We’ve just got to go on the road and take care of business.”

Kickoff Friday is at 7 p.m.