Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Playoff picture taking its form

Leader sports editor

Four games remain in the football regular season and the playoff picture is coming into focus, though nothing is settled. Beebe has a very important matchup with Mills on Friday that could end up determining the four seed from the 5A-Central. Jacksonville is also still in the race for a playoff spot, and will be after this Friday’s home game against Pulaski Academy despite the outcome of that game.

Pulaski Academy and Sylvan Hills remain unbeaten in league play while McClellan is 2-1. Beebe and Jacksonville are each 1-2, but the Badgers have the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of their 13-12 victory at Jan Crow Stadium.

Mills and J.A. Fair are winless, but the four seed will likely only need to win three games to make the playoffs this year because of the absence of North Pulaski.

The Badgers have the clearest road ahead of the one-win teams for securing a playoff spot. A Beebe win this week would almost assure the Badgers a spot in the playoffs. Beebe’s last two games are against J.A. Fair and Sylvan Hills. Fair has not won a game on the field since 2013, and a Beebe win over the War Eagles would give the Badgers that third league victory.

If Jacksonville loses to PA, it will need Mills to beat Beebe, and will need to beat Mills and McClellan in its final two games.

Among the conference leaders, the picture is even less clear because most of those teams have not faced each other. McClellan’s loss was 41-30 to Pulaski Academy. Sylvan Hills is off this week because of its scheduled game with North Pulaski. When they return to action, they will face the toughest three-game stretch of its schedule in McClellan, Beebe and PA.

McClellan hosts Fair this week and appears to have gotten past the offensive struggles it endured against Beebe (a 14-13 win) and in the first half against the Bruins. The Lions hammered Mills 66-16 last week, and will almost certainly win this Friday, making them 3-1 in league play with road games at Sylvan Hills and Jacksonville remaining.


In the 4A-2, Lonoke’s stellar 2-0 start to the season has taken a sharp downward turn as injuries pile up for the Jackrabbits. They have lost four-straight and this week must travel to one of the most notoriously difficult places to play in the state. Helena-West Helena Central shares one common opponent with Lonoke, and that comparison favors the Cougars. HWHC won 25-14 at Newport a week before the Greyhounds beat Lonoke 36-18 for their first and only win so far.

Five teams earn playoff bids from the 4A-2 instead of the four most leagues get. That keeps Lonoke’s playoff hopes somewhat alive even if it loses this week, but just barely. The Jackrabbits are in a near must-win situation as they prepare to take the field on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

What follows for Lonoke in its last three games are two conference unbeaten teams in CAC and Stuttgart, before closing the season against Riverview.


Carlisle also plays a game with major playoff implications on Friday. The Bison host Palestine-Wheatley in a battle of two-win 2A-6 teams.

The Bison and Patriots share two common opponents. Carlisle beat Marvell 62-14 while PW won 34-14. Carlisle also beat Augusta 28-22 while the Patriots lost to the Red Devils 39-38. Since the 2A-6 has nine teams, it also gets five playoff spots. A Carlisle win would almost guarantee the Bison, who are 2-2 in league play, one of those spots, though seeding won’t be determined. The Patriots have already played five league games and still has Des Arc and Hazen remaining as their last two after this week. That places the Patriots’ backs squarely against the wall on Friday, needing a win to help their playoff hopes.


Cabot (6-0, 3-0) has a No. 1 seed in its grasp if it beats Little Rock Central this week. The Tigers are just 2-4 overall and has yet to play a 7A team in conference. Since 7A and 6A play combined conferences, and only games against teams from like classifications count towards the playoffs, Cabot is in the driver’s seat. The Panthers have already beaten North Little Rock and West Memphis and a win this week would give them a perfect league mark as far as playoff considerations go, regardless of what happens the rest of the season.

It could be a taller order than one might expect. The Tigers have not suffered from a lack of scoring, but have struggled to stop other teams. Meanwhile, Cabot could have as many as four defensive starters out this week, including three linemen and a linebacker. That could play into the hands of Central’s power-running game.

But it could be an even taller order for the somewhat porous Tiger defense to stop a Cabot offense that is averaging slightly more than 40 points per game.