SPORTS >> Devils must focus to get win
Leader sports editor
The Jacksonville Red Devils have a huge task ahead of them this week as they head into the hometown of the second-ranked team in the state, on its senior night.
While focusing on what’s ahead, they also have to forget what’s behind them, an ugly loss to Forrest City that head Red Devil Mark Whatley summed up perfectly.
“We didn’t make them earn it,” Whatley said of last week’s loss. That may sum it up nicely, but there is more to it, and Whatley expounded.
“We were not mentally prepared to play that game, just look at our first possession. I’m not going to put in the paper my opinion on it, but you can bet they (the players) are crystal clear on what I think. Now we just have to put that behind us and move forward. We’ve got one heck of a football team in front of us and we can’t keep worrying about last week.”
West Memphis barely kept its perfect season intact last week, skimming by Mountain Home 25-24 in overtime, so it’s likely the Blue Devils got a wakeup call of sorts too.
West Memphis is a little more versatile this year, but still likes to pound away at opposing defenses with big fullback Xavier Murry.
The added versatility comes from a quarterback with a cool head, a good arm and some tall, speedy receivers that can make plays when called upon.
West Memphis torched Cabot for two big touchdown passes to beat the Panthers when the running game wasn’t working all that well.
Last year, Jacksonville shut down West Memphis’ ground game, and lost a hard-fought, low-scoring battle.
They’ll have to be prepared for more this year, but this has been a Jacksonville defense that has exceeded most everyone’s expectations.
“The defense has played well enough to win ballgames most of the time,” Whatley said. “I thought they did an outstanding job last week. We gave them two defensive touchdowns and a 20-yard field to work with for another.
“That’s tough on those guys, but they played well.”
Forrest City’s defense played well too, and it doesn’t get any easier this week.
Whatley said the Mustangs’ front four on defense were the best his team has seen this year, and West Memphis’ looks just about as good on film.
“We’re definitely going to have to do a better job with our pass protection,” Whatley said.
“A lot of that last week was because we put ourselves in a situation where they knew what we had to do to.
“Hopefully we’re more prepared from the start and can keep from putting ourselves in that situation this time.”
Senior night festivites at West Memphis begin at 7 p.m., kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.