In 2010, Shiloh Christian beat Warren 48-7 in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. The Saints went on to win their third straight title.
But a lot has changed since that game, as Warren and Shiloh Christian play in the Hootens.com Kickoff Week game on Monday in Conway at the University of Central Arkansas’ Estes Stadium. The game is the second one of the day and will start after Arkansas Baptist vs. Clinton, which starts at 5:30 p.m.
“The kids are excited and we are excited at the place we are playing it at,” Warren head coach Bo Hembree said. “It’s a great experience for our kids. They love being one of the first games of the year.”
Warren is still in the 8-4A Conference, but has a completely different roster from 2010. The Lumberjacks started many freshmen and sophomores last year and have eight starters returning on offense and nine on defense.
The Lumberjacks also won six games going into that playoff matchup against the Saints in 2010, but this year Warren is considered one of the best teams in Class 4A. The Lumberjacks were picked to win the 8-4A Conference and the second-best team in 4A by Hootens.com.
The Saints moved up to Class 5A this year, the second time they have moved up classes in the last six years. But they were nowhere near the championship caliber team they were in past years as they went 5-6 last year and lost 48-35 to Heber Springs in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
Shiloh Christian does return seven offensive starters to go along with five on defense this year.
Even though both teams have undergone considerable changes, Hembree still expects to see the same type of team from 2010 lined up across from his team on Monday.
“Shiloh has a lot of tradition … and they are going to do what they do,” he said. “They are going to line up and do their offense and their defense and they are going to be good at it.
The Lumberjacks already faced a tough challenge in its scrimmage when they faced Stuttgart, which was picked a spot behind them in Class 4A by Hootens.com. The Ricebirds beat the Lumberjacks 21-7, but Warren did not have returning starter Drake Jones at quarterback and Hembree held the team back a little bit.
“We were not going to show too much,” he said. “We did some things good and some things bad, and we went from there. We wanted to get out of it and show some things and we did that.”
Without Jones, Hembree featured the Lumberjacks’ ground game little more.
“Our offense wasn’t where we wanted it to be and we didn’t get a good look at our passing game,” he said. “On defense, we gotta handle big plays better. We gave up some draws and long passes that we have to correct.”
Jones was held out of the scrimmage because he is “banged up,” according to Hembree, who would not say if Jones will play in Monday’s game or what injuries the junior quarterback has.
“We will see. It’s a day-by-day decision,” he said. “We are going to be precautious more so now than in conference time.”
With or without Jones, Hembree knows the Saints are a tough test for first game of the season, which he likes.
“It will be an unbelievable game,” he said. “It’s a great game for week one and that’s what we wanted in week one, a tough test.”