STAR CITY — Two former conference rivals will square off Friday night as Star City faces Dollarway in the quarterfinals of the 4A state tournament held at Golden Lion Stadium on the campus of Arkansas-Pine Bluff beginning at 7 p.m.
For Bulldogs head coach Jett Furneaux, it is an opponent he is very familiar with.
“Star City-Dollarway is a big rivalry game for both sides,” the first-year head coach said. “I played them when I was a sophomore and beat them at their place on a blocked punt.”
Furneaux was the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator for four seasons, including in 2011 when Dollarway (12-0) defeated Star City (9-3) on a Hail Mary play to win 36-29.
“It is always a hard fought football game when these two teams meet,” Furneaux said. “Can’t imagine what it is going to be like for a playoff game.”
Dollarway has won seven of the past 10 meetings, including the seven-point win in 2011, which secured a playoff spot for the Cardinals.
The two teams were members of the 8-4A or its equivalent from 1991-97 and 2002-11.
“It is a huge game and a huge rivalry,” sophomore quarterback Tye Brown said. “Preparation has been huge.”
Brown said the team watched a lot of film on Monday and on Tuesday strapped on the pads and took the mental preparation into practice.
“I feel good, I feel confident,” Brown said. “We have had two good days of practice.”
Star City has won six straight games since losing to Warren and Hamburg in consecutive weeks. Brown, who’s the son of former Bulldogs head coach Blair Brown, has passed for 2,300 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.
With Pine Bluff at Greenwood for its 6A semifinal game and Rison playing at Carlisle in its 2A quarterfinal, the only other Southeast Arkansas school playing at home this week is Warren — which will host Arkadelphia.
Furneaux is expecting a huge crowd at UAPB.
“It is the first time these teams have met in the quarterfinals,” Furneaux said. “It should be a packed house at UAPB. It is going to be a wild, crazy football game.
“These kids know each other because they’ve played baseball, track and basketball against each other.
“… I think it is going to be a crazy atmosphere.”
Watson Chapel and White Hall lost in the first round of the 5A state playoffs, so Furneaux said if you want to watch high school football, “Where else are you going to go?”
Star City scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to rally past Gosnell 28-23 last week in the second round of the playoffs.
Brown scored the go-ahead touchdown with 7:31 left to play and Dajunn Harris intercepted Gosnell quarterback Dwight Griffin at the 3-yard line to secure the win with less than three minutes left.
Friday’s game was moved to UAPB because of poor field conditions at Dollarway’s Cardinal Stadium.
“I don’t think it changes anything,” Brown said. “Our team will be focused and will play the game between the lines.
“It is going to be a great atmosphere and we are all excited to be a part of it.”
“We are a young football team,” Furneaux said. “But we aren’t that surprised with how far we’ve made it this year.
“Our kids are very athletic and have grown up a lot in the last couple of weeks. We are going to have to do a lot of things right to play a well-disciplined football team.”
Dollarway advanced to the quarterfinals with a 44-7 win over Ashdown last week.
“Their physical presence stands out to me,” Furneaux said. “They are big and physical.
“… They have a bunch of winners, too. They are big and talented and have a winning mentality. They are a good ballclub.”
Brown agreed with his head coach about Dollarway’s presence.
“They’re all big,” Brown said. “They are fast and athletic. I think we got to play smart football and our technique has got to be perfect.”
Harris has rushed for 1,100 yards and 23 touchdowns and has 400 yards receiving and four TDs. Sophomore tackle Austin Capps, who has a scholarship offer from Arkansas, paces the Bulldogs in tackles.
“You start in May and it’s all for playing in November and December,” Brown said. “It may surprise everyone else (how far we’ve come), but we know how much work we’ve put in.
“It has paid off.”