Monticello needed to win its last two games of the regular season to secure a spot in the 4A state playoffs and did just that.
Monticello’s Justin Berry had an interception return last week to seal the 28-20 victory over DeWitt, which sends the Billies (4-6, 4-3 in 8-4A) to the playoffs for the tenth year in a row.
Monticello head coach Greg Tiner links an improvement in play to the Billies’ to rise to the occasion.
“I think the biggest thing is that we’re getting better as the year goes on and our kids are believing that they can win,” Tiner said. “The bottom line is that we’re a better team than we were a few weeks ago.”
Monticello will be on the road at Malvern (8-2, 6-1 in 7-4A), which lost by 32 points to Arkadelphia last week. Monticello will have to keep believing that it can win as well as play a good technique.
“They’re very athletic and have a lot of speed,” Tiner said of Malvern. “We feel good about our play on both sides on the ball but we’ll have to be fundamentally sound.”
Stuttgart at Maumelle
Stuttgart (4-6, 3-4 in 2-4A) lost a disappointing home game to Marianna last Friday, 20-18. The Trojans had not won a game within the past two seasons but managed to beat the defending 4A state champions. With a fourth seed in the playoffs, the Ricebirds now find themselves in an usual territory from season ago when they ran the table in the 4A playoffs.
Stuttgart will travel tonight to take on the Maumelle Hornets (8-2, 6-1 in 4-4A).
“They’re very athletic. Their quarterback does a good job, so we have to limit what happens when a play breaks down because he can make a play if that happen,” Stuttgart coach Billy Elmore said.
The Hornets lost to Booneville last Friday, 47-17. A major theme from that game is that Booneville never attempted a pass.
The inability of Maumelle to effectively defend the run may be an advantage for Stuttgart’s senior running back Tyler Luster. However, Maumelle’s defense has a diamond in the rough with senior defensive lineman Kendall Donnerson.
Donnerson can make plays using his athleticism and versatility to line up at defensive tackle, defensive end or even linebacker in some occasions.
“They arguably have the best defensive lineman we’ve seen all year, so we’ll have to do a good job at running the ball,” stated Elmore.
Mayflower at Fordyce
Mayflower’s and Fordyce’s offenses mirror each other. Both teams carry a balanced attack when they step on the field and can use big plays to score.
Fordyce (8-2, 5-2 in 6-3A) defeated McGehee last week, 33-13, on the strength of wide receivers Gary Cross and Charles York. Cross and York combined for 201 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Cross also served double duty as he intercepted three passes.
As far Mayflower (6-4, 4-3 in 2-3A) is concerned, junior quarterback Adam Dycus has passed for 43 touchdowns and is nearing the 4,000-yard mark. In the backfield with Dycus will be junior running back Justin Bailey, who has rushed over 1,000 yards for the Eagles this season.
With senior quarterback Javeaz Sledge and senior running back Larry Buckley being a cornerstone of the Redbugs’ offense, the defense has some gems of their own. Senior cornerback Paul Bryant leads the team in tackles with 69 while senior defensive end Josh Stroud leads the team in sacks with five.
With Cross being able to make plays at the safety position, he as well as Stroud and Bryant will be counted on to lead the Redbugs in a game that will most likely be decided by who has the better defense tonight.
“Defense will be real important because they can score a lot faster than we can,” Fordyce coach Tim Rodgers said. “We have to get some stops. I don’t think we can match putting up points on the board like they can so our defense will be real important.
Greenland at McGehee
McGehee (6-4, 5-2 in 6-3A) lost to Fordyce last week and missed out on a third straight conference championship. The Owls are now transitioning their setback to make a run in the playoffs.
“It’s kind of the opposite of a win when you have a high. We’re down about it but we have to pick ourselves up,” stated McGehee head coach Marcus Haddock.
The Owls had trouble handling big plays against Fordyce last week and will be matched up against Greenland (5-5, 4-3 in 1-3A) which brings a new style of play that the team will face. Haddock points out that Greenland senior running back Calvin Giddens brings a physical running style that will be a task for the Owls to handle.
“They bring a different brand of football we’ve seen on this side of this of the state,” Haddock said. “They can take it from the 5-yard line all the way to the other 5-yard line,” said Haddock. “They‘re going to make us defend the whole football field. It just means we have do the basics of football better.”