For the Dollarway Cardinals — whether it is on offense or defense — the theme is the same: It is not about the individual, it is about the team.
“I think it is very important,” Dollarway junior linebacker Chaderius Avery said. “We have been doing good and we work as a team.
“All 11 to the ball. We practice that every day. It doesn’t matter if our defense or if our offense is on the field, everybody has to go to the ball.”
The Arkansas Activities Association postponed all the playoff games one week after last week’s expected inclement weather. But Avery agreed with his head coach that their preparations haven’t changed.
“We have been watching film and studying their plays,” Avery said. “Even though they canceled the game, we still practiced all week.
“We just want to make sure everybody is focused.”
Dollarway (13-0) will host Booneville (13-0) tonight at 7 at Golden Lion Stadium on the campus of Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the 4A semifinals. Booneville won the 4-4A Conference title this season, blasting league playoff teams Dardanelle, Maumelle, Mena and Pottsville by an average of 43-12.
Dollarway swept the 2-4A Conference this season, beating conference playoff teams Newport, Stuttgart, Clinton and Lonoke by an average of 44-10. The Cardinals shut out six opponents this fall and held five to a touchdown or field goal.
Avery has 168 tackles, while senior tackle has Nicholas Woodfork has 120 stops including 10 sacks.
Avery credited the team’s success to the effort put forth by the team.
“I feel like we have better leadership and better seniors,” Avery said. “They get us on the right track.
“We aren’t worried about no stats, we are focused on doing our job, which is getting off the field and letting our offense get on the field and hopefully win the game.”
Head coach Cortez Lee said it comes down to responsibility.
“I think it is a combination of will and guys have learned their responsibility,” Lee said. “They aren’t playing out of their position but they also know they don’t have to make every play for us to be successful.”
Dollarway defeated Star City 36-0 two weeks ago to advance to the semifinals. Star City had been an offensive threat for most of the season – and especially in the playoffs – but the Cardinals were able to make some key defensive stops including a couple of stands in the red zone.
“I think the guys understand the downs and the distance situations,” Lee said. “And if the other teams need to get a key down, our tension heightens.
“They know more effort is needed for that play. And they are really all-in on making key plays and making key plays in the game.”
Avery said he shows his leadership by being an example.
“I’m not the speaking type,” Avery said. “I can show them by example better than I can talk to them.”
Booneville is led by quarterback Cody Harrel, who rushed for 1,039 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, while junior fullback Bryson May has 1,174 yards and 24 scores.
“I think our focus for this week is to get them tired,” Avery said. “They are a pretty good team. Their star players play both sides, so it is important to wear them down and take control of the game.”
Avery said from the defensive standpoint, that means, “knowing our assignments.”
“They do a lot of fake and trickery with the ball,” Avery said. “We need to hit them and hit them hard. We need to wear them out.”
Booneville runs out of the Wing-T option and has defeated every opponent by at least 14 points.
“Booneville is a very good team,” Lee said. “They are a very run-oriented team.
“All guys have to be seeking the ball and making the plays on defense and execute it very well.
“We have to have one of our better games (tonight).”
Dollarway will have to lean on guys like Avery to step up and make the plays.
“I’m very proud of his effort this year,” Lee said. “He has set the tone and has brought a lot of tenacity to the defense.
“He is all over the field.”
Lee said Avery showed promise even as a sophomore.
“He had a real good year last season,” Lee said. “… I knew with more time and more experience he could become an even better player.
“I knew he would have a good year.”
Dollarway won five state titles from 1988-1993 and the Cardinals have finished as runners-up four times since 1991.
“Overall, we have been successful,” Lee said of his team’s defense. “’All-together defense’ has been our motto this year and it takes everyone on the same page for us to be a championship-caliber team.
“I think everyone has done their part.”