Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

SPORTS >>Red Devils worrisome for Reed

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

In its last two games, Jacksonville has started showing signs of the potent offense that was expected at the beginning of the season. When they kick off this week in Forrest City, they will be taking on a Mustang team that has begun to struggle in recent weeks.

Both teams played opponents that were winless in conference play heading into last Friday. Jacksonville dominated Searcy while Forrest City saw Sylvan Hills slip out of their home stadium with its first league win. Both teams played most of the game without their best offensive weapons. When Jacksonville’s Justin Akins left his game in the first quarter after hitting the asphalt of the long jump ramp at the end of a run, teammate Lee Rob-inson stepped right in and the Red Devil offense didn’t miss a beat.

Forrest City quarterback Wilson Parker played sparingly for the first time in three weeks, but couldn’t go full speed and didn’t play much at all in the second half. His reserve, Nakier Barton, didn’t move the team as effectively. Forrest City coach Scott Reed didn’t blame the play of his backup quarterback. He was disappointed in the entire effort.

“Individually Nakier played pretty well,” Reed said. “He ran it well and made the right reads. Our problem was the overall team play wasn’t very good at all. It was pretty bad.” Reed is a Jacksonville graduate and former teammate of Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley. Reed led his Mustangs to a big win over Jacksonville in his first trip back to Jan Crow Stadium last season. That win helped lift the Mustangs to a higher seed in the playoffs, and this game has equal postseason implications. Jacksonville is 3-1 and alone in second place in the conference, while Forrest City is 2-2 and in a three-way tie for third. Reed, though, didn’t want to discuss that aspect of the upcoming game with his former school.

“Right now we’ve got to fix a lot of things and play a lot better before we talk about anything like making the playoffs,” Reed said. The head Mustang isn’t just worried about his offense, Reed is also concerned with the problems Jacksonville presents for his defense. Whatley’s goal is for his offense to be balanced between the run and the pass. The last two games have seen his team progressing towards that goal, and being successful, although the team is still having more success keeping it on the ground.

Despite that, Reed believes his team will have to be prepared for anything, especially with Jacksonville’s progress in the passing game. “The can do either one,” Reed said. “This is their second year in that system and they look to be a lot more comfortable. They’ve got a lot of weapons, a lot of speed all over the field. You can’t just focus on one thing defensively. If you do, they’ll burn you with the other one. They give you a lot to prepare for.”

Akins will be back and at least very close to full speed this week. Parker is still questionable with his ankle injury. “It’s still just day to day,” Reed said of his quarterback. “He played a little bit last Friday, but he couldn’t go very much. He wasn’t very mobile. If it improves he could be out there a lot, but we just don’t know.”