Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

SPORTS >>Wounded Lions dangerous to Devils

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Red Devils will host winless Searcy this Friday in a 6A-East Conference matchup at Jan Crow Stadium. It has been another difficult season for the Lions, but for the Red Devils, it has not been as stellar as many predicted.

After the difficult loss to Jonesboro two weeks ago, Jacksonville is officially out of conference Mulligans as far as the playoffs are concerned. Red Devils head coach Mark Whatley knows that despite Searcy’s winless record, the Lions can present a serious problem for any team.

“They are a really good football team,” Whatley said. “Those kids play really hard; they don’t have any quit in them. The minute you start planning ahead and overlook somebody, you’re going to get beat. Every Friday night in this conference is tough, so we will have to be ready to play.”

Whatley also remembers last year’s contest, in which an easy Jacksonville win was predicted, but the Red Devils trailed until the final minutes of the game. An 80-yard touchdown run from Justin Akins in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter helped the Devils squeak by the Lions. Whatley is hoping that things will not be quite as close this year.

“Last year, they gave us a heck of a battle,” Whatley said. “I know they have had some kids out with injuries this year, so we don’t know who they’ve got back and who they don’t, and that is a concern for me. You also will have kids who will step up when someone is injured and surprise you, so we also have to be looking for that.”

The Red Devils’ offense has looked somewhat shaky in the past few weeks, but Whatley says that not many changes are expected. He says the ability of his offense to adapt to different styles of defense has been the sore spot as of late. “We are just trying to go out and win football games,” Whatley said. “We just have to take what the defense gives us as far as what we run. We simply have to find ways to get in the end zone and keep them out of the end zone. If we can do that, we will be okay.”

Searcy’s year has gone from not so good to bad to even worse injury wise this season. At this time, the Lions have 14 players out with various injuries. The status of starting quarterback Justin Rowden for this Friday was still not known as of Tuesday afternoon.

Three more starters made their way to the injured list during last week’s loss to West Memphis. Nick Evans, Dustin Jones, and most notably Seth McGuiness. The senior McGuiness has been a starter on both sides of the ball as a tailback and linebacker, but a neck injury suffered on Friday has him out for the remainder of the season.

Searcy coach Bart McFarland says despite the setbacks, his team will be ready for the Red Devils on Friday. “The biggest thing for us will be stopping the big play,” McFarland said. “Their speed is definitely a concern for us, but we are going to continue to do what we’ve been doing, running the football, and spreading it out when we have to.”

The Lions will visit Jacksonville for the Red Devils homecoming this Friday with opening kickoff at 7 p.m.