Two of their major goals for this season could be accomplished this week, as the Dollarway Cardinals will host the Heber Springs Panthers on Thursday at 7 p.m. for its final regular season game.
The Cardinals (9-0, 6-0 8-4A) are looking for its first unbeaten regular season since 1992.
“It was one of the goals that we set,” Dollarway head coach Cortez Lee said. “I think the guys will feel real accomplished by that feat.
“It is something good by our team. It is a great accomplishment.”
Dollarway is also seeking an outright conference championship after splitting the title with Stuttgart – the defending 4A state champions – last season. It would be its first outright league title since 2004.
“We have a chance to win it outright,” Lee said. “That is something we want to accomplish.
“We are very close.”
Last week, Dollarway earned a No. 1 seed in the upcoming 4A playoffs by defeating Batesville Southside 52-8.
“It is not our main focus (this week),” Lee said. “We just want to make sure we continue to get better.
“…Things that we need to make sure show up while we get ready to make this playoff run.”
Lee said the undefeated season is “not a major concern,” but it is one of the goals that were set at the beginning of the season.
A win over Heber Springs (2-7, 2-4) would guarantee Dollarway the outright conference title but a loss and a Lonoke victory and the Cardinals would finish with a share of the title.
After losing to Clinton 35-33 last week, Heber Springs will miss the playoffs for only the second time since coach Steve Janski took over in 2005.
Last week, Dollarway came close to its fourth shutout of the season but the Southerners scored on a 21-yard touchdown run with 5:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve seen improvements but I’ve also seen areas of concern,” Lee said of his defense. “We may not have contained our gaps correctly or it may just be a blow assignment in the secondary.
“Overall the defense has been a key component to our success.”
Dollarway has allowed fewer than 10 points in six games this season and no opponent has scored more than 19 points. Helena-West Helena Central scored 19 in the season opener and Lonoke scored 19 in Week 7.
“We came in this year and we realized right away we have a great defense,” Lee said. “That’s a good remedy for winning a state championship and going far.”
Junior linebacker Chaderius Avery leads the Cardinals with 75 solo tackles and 19 tackles for loss. He has three sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles.
Avery had 10 tackles in last week’s win over Batesville Southside.
Senior defensive tackle Nick Woodfork is second on the team with 50 solo tackles, 10 sacks and 23 tackles for loss so far this season.
“I think this year we have answered some of the concerns we have had in the previous years,” Lee said. “Each section (defensive line, linebackers and secondary) has improved this year.
“And that’s why we have been getting better results.”
Offensively, the Cardinals average about 41 points a game with 551 yards including 394 yards on the ground. In last week’s win, Dollarway had nearly three guys with over 100 yards rushing.
“That’s key because then our opponents can’t key in one or two people,” Lee said. “It also shows the flexibility and depth that we have at the running back position.
“Just seeing guys being successful running the ball and wanting to be a part of our game plan is just a credit to our program and our staff.”
Keshawn Williams had 132 yards on six carries with two touchdowns and Markell Scott had 106 yards on six carries. Cameron Beavers finished with 76 yards on seven carries.
Senior quarterback Joshua Liddell scored two touchdowns against Batesville Southside including a 33-yard touchdown pass to Henri Murphy. Liddell, who was named a Landers Award finalist last week, has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards on 65 carries with 14 touchdowns.
He is also 32 of 38 with nine touchdowns and one interception.
“Joshua deserves everything that is coming his way,” Lee said. “He’s outstanding in the classroom and he is outstanding on the field.
“Overall, he’s just a super person and he’s most definitely deserving.”
Williams is second on the team with 982 yards on 84 carries with 12 touchdowns. He also has 15 catches for 415 yards.