Ricebirds pay early visit to LR

Neither head coach in the First Security Kickoff Classic opener had any complaints about starting off the season on a Monday with so much time to prepare for Week 2.

“We have played with this early game schedule for several years, so we are accustomed to it somewhat,” Central Arkansas Christian coach Tommy Shoemaker said. “We are making some changes to the schedule for later in the week, but it obviously won’t effect our preparation for Stuttgart.”

Stuttgart warmed up to the idea of Monday night football with a scrimmage last Monday against Warren. Stuttgart won 21-7 and hopes to register a win over the Saints in their 5 p.m. game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

“We seem to be responding well,” Ricebirds coach Billy Elmore said. “The week following Monday’s game won’t be quite the grind it’s been if we play well.”

The first high school football game in Arkansas will be held at the same site where both teams would like to end up — during state championship week. Stuttgart, which last won a state title in 2002, starts the season ranked third in 4A by Hooten’s Arkansas Football after a 9-3, 2-4A Conference runner-up season last year and returns eight offensive and seven defensive starters.

But what really concerns 12th-ranked CAC, which has moved down from 5A after a 5-5-1 season, is Stuttgart’s size up front. The Ricebirds range from 230-270 pounds on the offensive line and boast a 330-pound defensive lineman in Steven Harris.

“They are a very physical team and we will be overmatched from a size perspective,” Shoemaker said. “Hopefully, we will play with great leverage and technique.”

Stuttgart’s offensive line paved the way for a 2,400-yard rusher last season in Keith Humbert, who is now a freshman at Arkansas-Monticello. This time, a committee of backs led by junior Tyler Luster will handle the ground game.

It’s the other side of the ball that Elmore is looking more forward to against CAC.

“We try to pride ourselves on defense,” he said. “We’ve got to be a little better in coverage and pass rushing.”

Elmore said one of his keys to the game is putting pressure on CAC junior quarterback Jack Thomas, who takes over as the starter after focusing more on his linebacker role last year.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with his progress over the summer and in fall camp,” Shoemaker said. “Jack is a tremendous competitor and has great toughness. Our team has a lot of respect for him and his leadership.”

The First Security Kickoff Classic will continue with Little Rock Christian vs. Hot Springs Lakeside following Stuttgart vs. CAC, then on Tuesday with Arkadelphia vs. Benton and Jacksonville vs. Cabot.