RISON — Going into the state playoffs and judging by the 2A bracket, the Rison Wildcats knew they would more than likely play every game on the road, which is not an easy task for any team.
Embracing this misfortunate, Rison has adopted a new nickname for the playoffs — the Alley Cats.
“When we looked at the bracket, the chances of playing at home weren’t real good,” Rison head coach Clay Totty said. “So we’ve had to scratch and crawl and make the most of it.”
Rison (9-3) will travel to Carlisle (11-1) this week for the quarterfinals of the 2A state playoffs.
“We have had real good fan support so far,” Rison said. “We’ve out numbered the home crowd the last two weeks.
“When you got a real good following like that, it doesn’t matter (where you play) a whole lot.”
Rison defeated Magnet Cove 36-14 last week to advance in the playoffs. The Wildcats trailed 7-6 at the half and fell behind 14-12 midway through the third quarter.
It was the third time in the last four games in which Rison over came a second-half deficit. Friday’s victory marked the first time since 1982 that Rison has won back-to-back road wins in the playoffs.
“We have had some seniors step up and we have started 11 different sophomores to give us some depth,” Totty said. “We’ve overcome some injuries and battled through some things.
“We are excited to be playing this time of the year.”
A 73-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nathan Wilson to Kolton Hooks with 5:10 left in the third quarter put Rison ahead for good last week. Totty said it was a “huge play” made by Hooks.
Carlisle defeated Conway Christian 48-26 last week. Senior running back Deron Ricks (1,590 yards, 18 TDs) and Bo Weddle (1,104 yards, 21 TDs) lead the Bison’s run game.
“Defensively, we’ve got to create turnovers and force stops,” Totty said. “Offensively, we got to do the same thing. We have to take control of the football and make plays.
“Whoever plays the most fundamental will win the game. It comes down to who can stop each other.”
Rison’s defense allows 206 yards per game and about 18.5 points per game.
Senior Jokenzie Broughton paces Rison with 1,246 yards and 18 touchdowns and Wilson has completed 17 of 47 passes for 362 yards. He has also rushed for 758 yards this fall.
“There are a lot of similarities,” Totty said of the two teams. “They like to run the football like we do.
“But they have a little more speed and can get a big play out of the run.”
Totty said Rison depends on the pass for the big plays.
“We don’t throw the ball a whole lot, but when we do, we usually get big plays out of it,” Totty said.
Last year, Rison finished 8-4 but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Totty believes going this far into the playoffs has led to some maturity on his team.
“After Week 10, if you’re a sophomore, you’re now a junior,” Totty said. “We are on borrowed time. That experience should lead to some maturity and I think it has.”
Friday’s game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.