STUTTGART — Stuttgart quarterback Dontrell Brown has a reason for circling Dollarway on his football schedule. And a reason for not circling Dollarway.
“Yes because it’s for the conference championship,” he said. “No because we take each week at a time. We play every game, we want to win every game. It’s not just one game in particular.”
The Ricebirds have done that up to this point to remain the No. 1 team in 4A according to Hootens.com. Yet exacting revenge isn’t a reason to highlight the Cardinals on the schedule.
Dollarway trailed 18-6 at Stuttgart in a 4A state second-round game last year, but came back with a change of offensive set and took a 26-23 victory. Stuttgart linebacker/wide receiver Waymon Johnson said the loss is hard to keep out of his mind.
“It’s not that easy because we were down by three and we had a chance to score, but we had a turnover,” he said. “You just take what you did last year, come back and execute better this year.”
This year brings about a new opportunity.
There’s much about Friday’s game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. in Stuttgart, that’s drawing plenty of statewide attention. Stuttgart and Dollarway are ranked No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, and both are 7-0 and 4-0 in the 2-4A Conference.
But what about the Ricebirds’ shot at revenge?
“I don’t think revenge has a whole lot to do with it,” second-year Stuttgart coach Billy Elmore said. “This is a different football team. Dollarway’s got a different football team from what they had last year.
“I think revenge and talk of stuff like that goes out the window the first big contact of the game.”
Indeed, new goals lie in front of the Ricebirds and Cardinals, like a conference championship. And it’s reaching those goals rather than just paying back Dollarway that’s a motivating factor, Johnson said.
“People are saying it’s a big game for the conference championship, but there’s still a lot of work to be done by both teams after this game,” Elmore said. “The ironic thing is, the winner or loser of this thing, either one of them, could potentially win a state championship.”
Stuttgart has proven to be a legitimate state contender statistically, winning by an average score of 38-11 and totaling 366.3 yards of offense per game. The Ricebirds don’t pass the ball much, but Brown has posted a phenomenal 167.7 quarterback rating, completing 46 of 82 passes for 760 yards and nine touchdowns with one interception. The senior also leads the team in rushing with 109.1 yards per game.
Defensively, the Ricebirds have held teams to 113.9 passing yards and 100 rushing yards per game and have a plus-12 turnover ratio. Their defense will get a serious test from the Cardinals, who like the Ricebirds are heavy on the run game and are loaded with big-play threats including senior Jeremiah Young and sophomore Keyshawn Williams.
“I wouldn’t say it will be the toughest test, but it’s going to be pretty tough because they have good backs in the backfield who can take it all the way at anytime,” defensive tackle Taylor Daniels said. “If the defense comes out and executes everywhere on the field, we should have a great game.”