Special to The Commercial/William Harvey
Dollarway’s Jeremiah Young holds off Batesville Southside defenders to get a first down in an Oct. 26 game.
It might have been easy to predict that Dollarway’s chances at the 2-4A Conference championship went down the drain after its Oct. 19 loss at Stuttgart.
Then, Lonoke beat Stuttgart, and suddenly Stuttgart wasn’t so invincible anymore. Suddenly, Dollarway is back in the hunt for at least a share of the championship.
If the Cardinals win at Heber Springs tonight and Stuttgart makes Marianna winless for the season, Dollarway and Stuttgart will share the 2-4A title with Stuttgart earning the No. 1 seed in the 4A state playoffs. If Stuttgart loses and Dollarway wins, the Cardinals will be the outright champions in their first year in the league.
So tonight, a game pitting perennial power Dollarway against last year’s 2-4A champion in Heber Springs has a little more meaning.
“This is a key matchup,” Dollarway coach Cortez Lee said. “It has a lot of implications. It’s the last game of the season and something you should be building on, as we try to improve every week. We expect a good game.”
Dollarway (8-1, 5-1 in 2-4A) can avoid a potential three-way tie for second with Newport and Heber Springs with a win tonight and secure a home playoff game Nov. 9 with the fifth-place team from the 3-4A, which will be either Pocahontas or Jonesboro Westside. Tonight, Lee may get a better idea of how successful his team can be in November.
“(Tonight) could answer a lot of questions for the players and the coaches,” Lee said. “For example, how successful could we be? Those are some things young men strive for.”
The Cardinals set high expectations coming off a state semifinals finish last season. After starting this season with seven straight victories, a high seed and home-field advantage are still in their view.
They would just like the momentum to go along with a first-round game. They can get it by beating the Panthers (5-3, 4-2) tonight.
“I think we can carry a lot of momentum,” Lee said. “We’ll go into the playoffs with a winning attitude. That’s always important.”
The Panthers are going to the playoffs regardless of tonight’s result, but the only thing that’s clear for them is that they won’t finish worse than fourth in the conference. They’re looking for their third straight win, which would be their longest streak of the season.
“They play well as a team,” Lee said. “They’re consistent. Seems like all the guys run to the football. They have a few weapons on their offense.”