Dollarway has been preaching team unity all summer, and tonight the Cardinals will try to showcase their newly found solidarity as they host Helena-West Helena Central at Cardinal Stadium.
“It is a pretty good feeling,” Dollarway head coach Cortez Lee said about playing at home for the season opener. “Always like to showcase the talent in front of the home crowd.
“It is a great place to start and should set the tone for the rest of the season.”
Helena-West Helena Central has won just 16 games and reached the playoffs twice since playing for the 5A state title in 2008.
Only three seniors competed last season for the Cougars, who scored two touchdowns or less in seven of its eight losses, including back-to-back shutouts at Wynne and Jacksonville.
“Just a little bit unfamiliarity,” Lee said. “Not so familiar with their new personnel, and I think they are going to play with a lot more energy and those are just are two main concerns.”
Lee expects the Cougars to seek revenge after suffering a 44-14 loss last year. Dollarway’s only two losses last season were at 4A state champion Stuttgart and eventual state semifinalist Highland by 10 points each.
“We are at a good spot and our guys are ready to compete against somebody other than themselves,” Lee said. “The seniors are pretty seasoned and some are three-year starters.
“We are fired up, ready to go and ready to compete.”
Central has just six seniors slated to play this fall after winning just two games last year.
Dollarway was 10-2 and finished tied for first in the 8-4A Conference last year, but was knocked out in the second round of the playoffs. Senior Joshua Liddell ran for 1,130 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago.
“I’m looking forward to (tonight),” Liddell said. “It has been a long summer and I am ready to see how much better we have gotten.”
Liddell said he believes the team is “bigger, faster and stronger” than a year ago.
“We are also more disciplined and much smarter,” Liddell said. “Basically a very hard working team.”
In August, teammate and junior running back Keyshawn Williams said the team is more focused on trying to win a state championship and not anybody’s personal goals. Liddell agrees.
“Our team goal is to win every game and win our conference,” Liddell said. “We want the home-field advantage during playoffs and we want to win a state championship.”
But Liddell knows that it is going to take a lot of hard work to reach those high expectations.
“It is going to take dedication and coming to practice every day,” Liddell said. “Do what we are supposed to do.
“Hard work is going to be hard, but in the end it will pay off.”
Williams ran for almost 700 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago.
Dollarway was scheduled to face Little Rock McClellan in a scrimmage game in August, but it was canceled.
Lee said McClellan was in the process of hiring a new head coach and the school waited until the last minute before making a decision. He said the benefit game was probably lost in the shuffle.
The Cardinals did not play a scrimmage game last season, so Lee said he was not too concerned about not getting one in this year.
“We just have to take everything at face value and be ready to perform (today),” Lee said.
Lee said the fans should come out and watch as the Cardinals make their trek towards a state title.
“They will see a team that is ready to play and a team that is playing for each other,” Lee said. “See a team that is paying attention to the details and expect to see a team that is ready to play.”
The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.