Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

SPORTS >>Jackrabbits need to win to advance

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Friday’s game between Lonoke and Newport has turned from a conference game into what amounts to a wildcard playoff game for the No. 4 seed in the 2-4A Conference. The league has proved to be one of the toughest in the state this year, with teams possessing records of 4-5 (Lonoke) and 3-6 (Newport) vying for a shot at the post season.

Greyhounds coach Greg Brannon says his team has more at stake than just a playoff bid. Newport currently has the longest streak of consecutive trips to the playoffs with 19, and hope to make it an even 20 with a win over Lonoke. “The kids know what’s at stake,” Brannon said. “They are aware of the streak that is on the line, and they don’t want to be the ones that break it. Even with our 3-6 record, we are still upbeat and we think we can get in.”

Though Lonoke’s record is not much better at 4-5, the only blowout loss was given up last week at the hand of flawless Stuttgart. Every other game has been decided by only six points or less, making the ‘Rabbits one of the toughest teams with five losses in the state.

Like most coaches, Brannon is most concerned with the team speed that Lonoke possesses, but says he thinks he has the speed to match Jeff Jones’ squad. “They have a lot of speed, and they will spread the ball out on you,” Brannon said. “They kind of remind me of the type of athletes that we have. They play hard every down. Coach Jones has done a great job coaching them this year. We are just going to go out and do things the way we normally do it.”

Newport’s go-to guy offensively all season has been Nico Cox. The junior tailback has already rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. The ‘Hounds also have a solid passing game, led by junior QB Edward Pruitt. The ‘Rabbits will be the last of a string of tough teams faced by the Greyhounds this season.

Newport started the season off with a grueling stand of non-conference games against Pocahontas, Gosnell and Batesville. Those resulted in half of the ‘Hounds’ six losses, the other three came at the hands of Marianna, Stuttgart and Heber Springs, coincidentally the three teams already locked into the playoffs from the 2-4A Conference. The ‘Rabbits and ‘Hounds will square off the final playoff vacancy Friday at 7:30 p.m.