Three years ago, Dollarway head coach Cortez Lee knew Kabion Ento had the makings to become a special player for the Cardinals football team.
“We weren’t winning the game and I noticed how he put himself in harm’s ways,” Lee said. “He was a fearless young man even though he wasn’t that big at the time.
“He was taking on linemen, running backs and I just thought that kid would be a very special player.”
Ento, who’s now a senior, has been the driving force for Cardinals as they head into tonight’s quarterfinal matchup against former conference opponent Star City.
“The first time I actually saw him play I knew he was a special player based on his toughness,” Lee said. “I knew he had a chance to grow into a body that can compete.
“Since Day 1, I always thought he was a special player.”
Ento, who also plays basketball for the Cardinals, plays both ways for Dollarway. In last week’s 44-7 win over Ashdown, Ento’s only catch was a 73-yard touchdown that gave the Cardinals a 20-7 lead with 4:14 left in the first half.
“Coach called the play and (Joshua) Liddell could have thrown it to any receiver, but he threw it to me and I ran for my life for the touchdown,” Ento said.
This season, Ento has 19 catches for 606 yards and nine touchdowns.
“I think he’s a complete player with his size,” Lee said. “He presents a tough matchup on both sides of the ball.
“I’m just proud of his effort this year and also in the playoffs.”
Defensively, Ento has 30 solo tackles and a team-high eight interceptions, including two against Ashdown last week. His twin brother Kamaree has eight sacks and 42 tackles on the year.
Ento grabbed his second interception of the night with 6:20 left in the game. It saved a possible touchdown by Ashdown and Dollarway was able to march down the field and score the game’s final points.
“It was huge for us,” Ento said. “We don’t want them to score and it meant a lot even though we were already up big.
“I was focused and I never let up. I knew the interception meant a lot.”
Ento has also returned two interceptions for touchdown this year.
“He’s able to do multiple things,” Lee said. “He could play special teams and be a key component. … He can play at any position.
“He is capable of making a big play.”
Undefeated Dollarway (12-0) gives up 14 points per game, shutting out five opponents this year. Dollarway gave up a season high 21-points against Jonesboro Westside in the first round of the 4A playoffs. Before that, the most points te Cardinals had given up was 19.
Dollarway will face Star City (9-3) tonight at Golden Lion Stadium on the campus of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The game was moved to UAPB after Dollarway’s Cardinal Stadium was declared unsafe to play on.
“They’re a balanced team and they do multiple things well,” Lee said. “They’ve played some pretty good teams this year and have competed.
“They are a formidable opponent.”
Ento thinks while he and his team will enjoy playing at UAPB, it doesn’t change their mindset or prepartion.
“Come out and play football,” Ento said. “Whether we are on our field or at UAPB.
“It will be fun because we are playing at UAPB, but the execution will still be the same.”
Liddell, a senior, has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns and passed for more than 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns this fall.
Junior Keshawn Williams has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 18 scores.
“We have been playing great and playing as a team,” Ento said. “… This year we are more focused and team oriented.
“We don’t care who makes the plays and we just want to win.”
Last season, Dollarway shared the 2-4A conference championship with Stuttgart and was eliminated in the playoffs in the second round by Highland.
“Last year, we weren’t as together as we are now,” Ento said. “We have been playing together since ninth grade and now we feel like we know what it takes to win.
“… We have a lot of leadership. Not just seniors but some juniors as well. Everyone is on the same page now.”
Star City and Dollarway were members of the 8-4A or its equivalent from 1991-97 and 2002-11. Dollarway has won seven of the past 10 over the Bulldogs, including 36-29 in 2011, which the Cardinals won on a Hail Mary.
“To meet them in the playoffs after we switched conferences is just ironic,” Lee said.
“We all know Star City is a rivalry game,” Ento said. “It is going to be a great game. But we prepared just like we are facing any other team.”