WARREN — Friday night’s 4A state quarterfinals will feature the 7-4A conference champs against the 8-4A conference champs. Speed matched up against speed.
The No. 1 seed versus another No. 1 seed. Both squads are set to battle against each other with similar qualities, Warren head coach Bo Hembree acknowledges something different that allows Arkadelphia (12-0, 9-0) to win games.
“It’s big plays,” said Hembree. “They haven’t had a close game all year and with Kris Oliver and Jakahri Howell in the backfield they have some playmakers.”
While Warren was on a bye week, Arkadelphia shut out Dumas in the opening round of the playoffs, 35-0. Last week the Arkadelphia beat Newport 28-12.
Quarterback Jakahri Howell guides the Badgers, completing 176 of 239 of his passes for 2,331 yards while scoring 28 touchdowns and throwing just six interceptions for the season. The senior has also rushed 113 times for 842 yards and 16 touchdowns.
In the backfield with Howell is senior running back Kris Oliver, who has 168 carries for 1,443 yards and 22 touchdown. Being a tailback that also catches passes, Oliver has also accounted for 657 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns.
With Oliver and Howell at the forefront of Arkadelphia’s dominating offense, the Badgers have a habit of snapping the ball as soon as the referee places it in position.
This may prove challenging for Warren’s defense. The Lumberjacks’ defense felt the effects of a first round bye week and got off to a slow start last week but only allowed two scores as they downed Dardanelle 48-13.
Senior linebacker Kendrick Newton lead the team with 12 tackles and senior cornerback Odis Miller chipped in nine tackles. Along with sophomore linebacker D’Angelo McCoy, they will be expected to lead a defense that will try to stop Arkadelphia’s fast paced offensive scheme; that’s something no team has done this season.
Warren’s offense is a different story. Senior quarterback Drake Jones went down with a leg injury and his return may be a game time decision. If Jones does not play, the Lumberjacks will still have a confident presence at the quarterback position.
Junior back quarterback Justin Gorman and junior wide receiver Darveon Brown filled in for Jones last week and displayed poise and leadership.
Gorman accounted for a touchdown pass, while Brown threw a touchdown pass and rushed for another score. But according to Hembree, their experience at the position is what allowed them to take over where Jones left off.
“They’ve played a lot. When Drake was hurt earlier in the year they got a lot of snaps in,” Hembree said.
Arkadelphia will try to impose their undefeated season on Warren’s winning tradition.
The Lumberjacks went 0-3 in the nonconference against tough competition and bounced back by going undefeated in conference play. Warren will now face tough competition again as they take a step closer to getting to the 4A state semifinals.
As they prepare to do so, Hembree acknowledges that his team will have to do what they have been doing all year long.
“We just got to play our game. We have to care of the ball and play good special teams,” Hembree said. “We have to tackle number No. 1 and No. 2 and in the fourth quarter we have to know how to close out with a win.”