Tuesday, August 30, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits and Bison rekindling old rivalry

Leader sports editor

Only about eight miles of Hwy. 70 separate Lonoke and Carlisle, but it’s been 26 years since the two schools have faced off on the gridiron. That all changes Friday when the Bison invade the Rabbits’ meadow at Abraham Stadium.

The last time these two teams met in 1990, Carlisle won 16-6.

There are some interesting connections in Friday’s game at LHS as well. Carlisle’s new coach, Mark Uhiren, is a Carlisle graduate and former head coach at Lonoke, and Lonoke head coach Doug Bost was one of his assistants. Jackrabbit assistant coach Jack Keith was Carlisle’s head coach last season.

The 2A Bison will be underdogs to their Class 4A hosts, but old rivalries are often unpredictable. It might be two small towns, but it will be one packed stadium on Friday.


The Cabot football team has a major test coming Friday when the two-time defending Class 6A state champion Pine Bluff Zebras enter Panther Stadium.

Pine Bluff only has six returning starters from last year’s championship team, but has benefited this offseason from transfers.

Likely the two biggest pieces of the Zebra offense this year are both transfers. Pine Bluffscrimmaged against Parkview and dominated. The two offensive leaders were both transfers. Quarterback Simeon Blair moved over from nearby Dollarway High School to PBHS, and running back Dalvin Smith (5-foot-10, 230 pounds) moved back to Pine Bluff after spending last season at Lufkin, Texas.

There’s also returning tailback Keshawn Whaley (6-1, 220) who carried for 299 yards last year.

“That quarterback is pretty good and that running back is a load,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “I think our defense has a chance to be pretty good, and we’re going to find out pretty quick how far along we are. Those backs are big and they have some speed. They pretty much stayed in the spread against Parkview, so they’ve changed some things from last year. But they’re going to be good – athletes all over the field.”


Jacksonville will officially take the field as the Titans for the first time in school history when it hosts the Mills Comets on Friday. Jacksonville didn’t look as good as coaches had hoped when it played Mena last Monday in a preseason scrimmage game. The Titans failed to score, but did have some success moving the football, and the defense held the Bearcats to just one touchdown.

“I felt really bad that night, but not as bad when I watched film the next day,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “We scored one touchdown and got it called back. We had some success, but we had too many mistakes. We’d get something going and get a penalty or miss a snap or something that would get us behind the chains. We’re not an offense made for third and 12. Not many are. We have to be next to perfect in our execution, and that was the first time out there for a lot of those guys.”

Mills has gone from a tightly packed Wing-T offense to a wider alignment, but not exactly the spread. In their scrimmage against Hall, the Comets ran some Double Wing, and at other times removed the tight ends and were in more of a Flexbone formation. Whatever they’re lined up in, the goal is usually to create opportunities for big and bruising fullback Brandon Bunting. He ran for more than 1,000 yards last year, including a 6-yard per carry average against McClellan, which had the best defense in the 5A-Central last season.

“Coach (Patrick) Russell says he could be the best one he’s ever had,” Hickingbotham said of Bunting. “He’s about 230 and he’s a Hoss.

The Titans and Comets kick off the game and season at 7:00 p.m. at Jan Crow Stadium.


Beebe opens the season with Greenbrier for the 15th consecutive season. The Panthers did not look very good when they were drubbed 42-14 in one half of play in their preseason scrimmage with Sylvan Hills, but Beebe coach John Shannon isn’t basing any projections of Greenbrier’s prowess on that outing.

“One thing I know is that Greenbrier has always been one of the better prepared teams we’ve played each year,” said Shannon. “I know coach Tribble wasn’t satisfied with how they played in that scrimmage, and they’ve gone to work to correct those mistakes. They’re well coached and they’re coming to play.”

Shannon’s squad had a better outing in its scrimmage, although the competition level wasn’t quite the same. Beebe’s starting lineup handled defending Class 3A champion Harding Academy pretty easily most of the time, although the Wildcats did hit a couple of long passes.

And although they played well last Tuesday, Beebe’s considerable youth is still a question mark going into a regular-season road game.

“I was pleased with our sophomores in the scrimmage, but Friday night in a real game, 5A competition on the road, will be something they haven’t experienced before. So it’ll be interesting to see how they handle that.”


Sylvan Hills hosts 7A Catholic. The Rockets scrimmaged against neighboring Hall High, and didn’t produce much offense. They did keep the Warriors from scoring, but Bear coach Jim Withrow isn’t basing much off of what he saw in that game.

“They only scored one touchdown, but I think they were playing a lot of people,” said Withrow. “They have a couple of pretty quick backs and they’re quarterback looked pretty good, but they really didn’t do much. I think we have to focus on just doing what we have to do.”

Much has been made about the Bears surprising rout of Greenbrier in the scrimmage, and Withrow was just as surprised as anyone else, and very pleased. But he wasn’t so pleased with the team’s performance later in the week in the annual Blue-White intrasqaud scrimmage. He did feel better, though, after Monday’s practice.

“I didn’t think we played that well in our Blue-White,” Withrow said. “I think some of that, at least I’m hoping, was just being tired of practice and wanting to play someone else. We came back and had a good practice on Monday, so I don’t want to put too much into Friday. It’s going to be a big challenge, going against a 7A team in the first game, so I think we’ll come out ready to play.”