Leader Blues

Thursday, September 07, 2006

SPORTS >>Traditional rivalry still heated

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

When it comes to Week 10 of the high school football season, one thing is certain, that Cabot and Jacksonville will meet up in a very meaningful football game. Circumstances such as playoff seedings or eligibility may change. Those circumstances may even be meaningless, as is the case this year, but the game itself won’t be. Jacksonville doesn’t need playoff implications to want to beat Cabot, and the same goes for the Panthers, especially after last season, when the Red Devils beat Cabot for the first time in eight years.

Win, lose or draw, Jacksonville is going to play Springdale in the first round of the playoffs next week, and Cabot’s season will end Thursday night, but don’t think that either team will play like there’s nothing on the line. Cabot wants to salvage as much as it can of a lost season by beating an arch rival that has done little to allow the Panthers to forget last season’s game.
Jacksonville wants to prove last year’s game was no fluke, and wants to head into the playoffs with a confidence-building victory.

The fact that the game has no playoff implications doesn’t bother Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley. He believes his team will be just as ready to play football as it has all season. “I don’t think we’ll have a letdown,” Whatley said. “The reason I say that is because we haven’t had one all year. We haven’t played very well at times, but no one can accuse us of not playing hard.”
The Red Devils have followed a pattern all year.

They have beaten the teams that had worse records than theirs, and lost to the ones that had better records. All of the losses were close, until last week, when West Memphis put a 50-13 pounding on them. Still, that doesn’t have Whatley worried about his team’s morale. “Like I said, nothing has really gotten this team down and gotten them to not giving it everything they have,” Whatley said.

“That’s a testament to them. They do that. They get ready to play and they leave it all out there. It hasn’t always gone well for us, but they don’t let up. West Memphis is a good football team and they whipped us, but we’re going to come right back from that and play hard. We just have to play better.”

While no playoff implications and low morale after a big loss doesn’t concern Whatley, the fact that Cabot is 1-8 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak that includes losses to two teams Jacksonville hammered doesn’t give him any comfort either. “Oh yeah there’s danger in this game, you’re dadgum right there’s danger.

“The danger is we’ve seen them on film and nobody has stopped them all year,” Whatley said. “They’ve stopped themselves. They go on 16-, 19-play drives and them fumble it. They get down to the 10-yard line and turn it over. “We can’t count on them doing that. They’re not going to give us a lot of chances, so we’re going to have to be opportunistic when we get the ball. And hopefully we’ll find a way to stop them.

“That’s a good football team, and a dad-gum-good offense. Besides, this is Jacksonville against Cabot. What else is there to say?”