It is the annual Saline River Shootout, but it is taking place a few weeks later this year because of an added twist.
Monticello (4-3, 3-1) was in Class 5A before dropping down to the 8-4A Conference, the same one Warren (4-3, 4-0) is in.
Both teams are at the top of the conference, too. Warren is the top team and Monticello is tied with Hamburg, which beat the Billies earlier this year.
“It’s just a big rivalry game and there’s more emphasis on it this year,” Warren coach Bo Hembree said. “There’s still a long ways to go though.”
Monticello coach Greg Tiner knows this is a big game in the conference standings.
“In terms of conference championships, it’s a big ballgame,” he said. “It’s always a big rivalry, but bigger now because it’s a conference game.”
Tiner knows his team will have to play a well-disciplined game in order to hand the Lumberjacks their first conference loss.
“They have a lot of guys that can run and they are physical up front,” he said. “We have to play really well to beat those guys.”
Hembree said almost the same thing about the Billies.
“They have a lot of size and they are fast, so we have to play disciplined football to have a chance,” he said. “Every game is important and it’s going to be a great high school football game and it’s one of the best rivalries.”
The Lumberjacks are ranked No. 6 in 4A by Hootens.com.
Rison at Bearden
The No. 2 and the No. 3 teams in Class 2A meet this week as Rison travels to Bearden tonight. Rison (5-2, 4-1 8-2A Conference) is the No. 3 team and Bearden (5-2, 5-1) is No. 2.
“We are excited about the opportunity and the kids have played hard and improved a lot in the last five weeks,” Rison coach Clay Totty said. “We have put ourselves in the opportunity to play in a big ball game like this. It’s not for a championship or anything, but it will be a fun environment for us.”
Bearden has allowed just 12.8 points per game this season, but faces a Rison team that is led by quarterback Nathan Wilson, who rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in a 33-16 win over the Pine Bluff junior varsity team.
“He is running well and he hit on some big plays,” Totty said. “He is throwing it well too and I think in the last five games, he’s thrown about seven touchdown passes.”
Rison’s defense is pretty good, too. After giving up 73 points in the first two weeks of the season, the Wildcats have given up just 36 points in the last five games.
“Our defense has been playing well, too, so it could be a good defensive battle,” Totty said. “Our rotation has really set itself in place since week three.”
Bearden running back B.J. Ross is committed to Arkansas State and is just one of a few players Rison has to pay attention.
“They have a lot of talented skill players,” Totty said. “Ross is a game-breaker and they have several players to hand it off to. We have to play good team defense.”
McGehee at Prescott
McGehee looks to make a mess of the 6-3A Conference standings when the Owls travel to take on Prescott tonight.
McGehee (6-1, 3-1) is tied for second in the conference with Camden Harmony Grove — which beat the Owls — and Fordyce, which lost to Prescott. The Owls are ranked No. 8 in 3A by Hootens.com.
Prescott is the only undefeated team left in the conference and has scored 310 points, the most in 3A. Prescott is also ranked No. 5 in 3A.
“It’s a long trip against a great opponent and those are two things that don’t go well together,” McGehee coach Marcus Haddock said. “They have athletes all over the field and it’s going to be a challenge.”
Prescott is a 3-hour road trip for McGehee.
For the Owls, David Shepard has rushed for more than 800 yards.
Little Rock Fair at Sheridan
Sheridan has been a completely different team the last two weeks. Last week, Bryant beat the Yellowjackets (2-5, 1-3 7A/6A-South) 58-0 and the week before, Sheridan beat Benton 17-14.
Tonight, Sheridan has a home game against Little Rock Fair (0-7, 0-4), a team the Yellowjackets have beaten by an average of 26 points over the last four years.
Sheridan coach Louis Campbell said his team does not really know the last few games have been that lopsided.
“I don’t think they can even tell you who won,” he said. “They’ve got athletes and the thing that has killed (Fair) is they will self-destruct. If they ever play a game where they don’t do that, they will be a good football team.”
Bryant is one of the common opponents the two teams have had and the War Eagles were able to get 14 points on the board.
“If you want to compare score, it’s not going to be a cakewalk,” Campbell said. “We will have to play well and do the things we need to do to win. We just can’t show up, or we are going to go home with a sad look on our face.”
Lake Village Lakeside at Star City
After an 0-2 start to the 8-4A Conference season, Star City has won its last two division games to get back in the hunt. One of the wins was against Hamburg, which is its only conference loss.
Star City (5-2, 2-2) has a chance to move up the conference ranks against Lake Village Lakeside (1-6, 0-4).
“We are looking forward to this game and it’s homecoming,” Star City coach Blair Brown said. “Our kids are excited about it. We are on a two-game winning streak and another win puts us in better position for a run at the playoffs.”
Lakeside has not won a conference game since Week 5 of the 2010 season. But Brown said the team has to focus on what it needs to do to get better and not Lakeside.
“This is the time of year it’s about getting better and being consistent,” he said. “We did a lot of good things against Dumas and had almost 500 yards rushing.
“We have kids getting healthy and have younger kids that are developing, so there are just some things we have to do to get better.”
Fordyce at Drew Central
Fordyce and Drew Central are both dealing with injury issues.
Fordyce (6-1, 3-1 in 6-3A Conference) could be missing a couple of offensive linemen, a linebacker and a fullback on Friday.
“The main thing is we have been working on is getting everyone healthy,” Fordyce coach Tim Rodgers said. “Just have to get people in the right positions to win the game.”
Drew Central (0-6, 0-4) is going to be without wide receiver/cornerback Aaron Goad, who is probably out for the year according to coach James White.
Also out is defensive end/running back DeAndre Miller.
“We had a physical game last week against Genoa Central and Fordyce will be real tough as well,” White said.
Fordyce is ranked No. 6 in 3A according to Hootens.com, while Drew Central is on a 19-game losing streak.
The Redbugs are pretty focused for the game, though, Rodgers said.
“One thing we have learned the last two years is that we don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “They know we still have to go out there and play as if we are going to win the game.”
White said the game will be a hard matchup for his team in every aspect of the game.
“They will get in the Wing set and run a lot of counters and traps, and then go to the spread,” he said. “They have a lot of good athletes and a good quarterback who throws it on the money.”