Warren got off to a rocky start by starting its season 0-3 but managed to dominate the 8-4A Conference, going undefeated while picking up shutout wins along the way. With getting a No. 1 seed in the 4A state playoffs, the Lumberjacks (7-3) had a bye last week during the first round.
Warren head coach Bo Hembree used the break to his advantage.
“We got a lot of work with our young guys and let them scrimmage on Thursday to evaluate them. For our older guys, we used drills and two-a-day-type practice to work with them,” said Hembree.
As well as getting fine-tuned, Warren has been in preparation for Dardanelle (8-3), which defeated Highland on the road 21-7 in the opening round of the playoffs. During that matchup, the Sand Lizards created turnovers.
With the possibility of rain, this may be a concern for Hembree’s team.
“Taking care of the ball is something that we pride on, but it’ll be an issue with the condition of rain. We have to take care of protecting the football and not turning it over,” he said.
Aside from protecting the ball, the Lumberjacks will be more focused on Dardanelle quarterback Kristian Thompson. The 6-foot-3 junior broke his arm in the second game of the season but returned to action for the last game of the regular season. Thompson’s dual-threat ability is going to be a challenge for Warren’s defense tonight, according to Hembree.
“The quarterback is just unbelievable. We’ll have to have all our guys going towards the football. We probably can’t stop him but we’ll have to contain him,” expressed Hembree.
Warren’s offense has been cruising this season with quarterback Drake Jones passing for more than 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns. With help of Von Eric Gonder, Darveon Brown and Jaylon Marshall leading the way for scoring, Hembree expects his defense to take care of Thompson as defensive lineman Aaron Church will be headlining the point of attack.
“Tackling the quarterback and not turning over the ball on offense” are Hembree’s keys to victory.
Rison at Magnet Cove
Rison and Magnet Cove both love to run the ball.
Magnet Cove senior rushed Adam Davidson has rushed for 659 yards in the past four weeks, brining his season total to 1,224.
Rison and leading rusher JoKenzie Broughton ran for more than 200 yards and three scores last week in the Wildcats’ 52-6 win over Mountainburg in the opening round of the 2A state playoffs.
Even though the both believe in utilizing the ground game a lot, their offenses have different styles of operating.
“They throw more than we do. They’ve got a good receiver. They run the spread and we run our offense under center,” said Rison head coach Clay Totty.
But with running ball, the chances of a fumble are always in effect. Totty expresses that giving away the ball this late in the season is not something his team can afford.
“Turnovers will be big and the defense, we have to get some stops,” said Totty.
Rison is riding its wave on going into the playoffs with back-to-back wins over Hampton and Strong. However, Totty doesn’t believe this sport is based on momentum in a win-or-go-home contest.
“In the playoffs it’s week to week. You take it one week at a time. If you’re fortunate enough to win, then you regroup and get ready for the week,” said Totty.
“Football to me is more of a game of survival than momentum. You have to survive to play week to week.”