Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

SPORTS >> Devils set for Searcy

By JASON KING
Leader sports writer

Friday’s game between the Searcy Lions and the Jacksonville Red Devils will be important to both teams for very different reasons. The Red Devils are trying to keep their momentum intact as the season winds down and secure a spot in the AAAAA playoffs and possibly at least a share of the conference championship. Searcy is simply looking for a victory to get rid of the dreaded goose egg that currently resides in its win column.
Despite Searcy’s struggles this year, Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley says his Red Devils are in no way taking the winless Lions for granted. A team’s record has little significance when it comes to game time, according to Whatley.

“It’s a new football game,” Whatley said. “They are going to get after it, they are going to fight hard and play hard. They look like they are getting better every week. It’s going to be like any other AAAAA East Friday night. You better have your A game with you when you go, they’re no different from anyone else.”

The Red Devils are coming off their second conference win of the season against county and conference rival Sylvan Hills. Last Friday’s win over the Bears helped improve Jacksonville’s record to 2-1 in the East and 3-3 overall.

Searcy suffered another tough loss on the road last week at the hands of West Memphis. The Lions have had a trying season full of injuries and missed opportunities. Last year, the Lions went eight weeks into the season before getting their first win against Jonesboro at home in a game that no one expected them to win. Searcy hopes to pull he same type of late-season upset this Friday.

Searcy has used the spread offense exclusively this season under first-year head coach Bart McFarland. Their closest shot at a win this season was the conference opener at Cabot.

The Lions scored 21 unanswered points in the first quarter, only to have the Panthers tie the game at the half.
Cabot wore the Lions down in the second half with a series of interceptions, and took the win away from Searcy.
“We’ve seen some spread offenses before, they seem to be running out of it a lot right now more than anything,” Whatley said. “Anytime people are in the spread, they want you to bust a coverage or two or line up wrong. It makes you aware of where everybody is on the field; hopefully that won’t be a problem for us defensively.”
Jacksonville will also spread the field, and has also been running out of the spread more often in the last two weeks.

Searcy has had a great deal of trouble stopping the run this year. With the quickness of Red Devil junior tailback Justin Akins, and speedy receivers like Levar Neely and Marcus Hildreth, as well as Eugene Cherry and Justin Sebourn, who have emerged as offensive threats in recent games, the Lions will have to improve on their ability to contain fast players.

Offensively, the Lions have moved the ball successfully, but have committed more turnovers than any other team in the conference.