Leader Blues

Thursday, October 04, 2007

SPORTS >>Fledgling Southside concerns Jackrabbits

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Two losses to start the season had the ’Rabbit faithful concerned over the 2007 season, but Lonoke has recovered from its early struggles to win the last three games, including the first two 4A-2 Conference games over Heber Springs and Bald Knob. This week, the Jackrabbits will travel to Batesville to take on the Southside Southerners.

The Southerners may still be on the rise in only their second season of having a varsity football program, but they have made great strides in a little over a year’s time. Jackrabbit coach Jeff Jones says his team’s great start to the conference season will have to carry into this Friday against Southside in order to get a win against the quickly evolving Southerners.

“That program has vastly improved,” Jones said. “They throw and catch the ball really well; on defense, they show really great technique. They are definitely a program on the rise, so we have to be ready for them.”

Of the potential weapons that the Southerners posses, Jones says his primary concerns offensively are running back Richard Hughes and receiver Justin Mosier. The work in practice this week for the ’Rabbits will focus on containment of those personnel, along with cleaning up a few loose ends.

“They definitely have the people in place offensively,” Jones said. “But our defense has taken a big step forward. They are getting after it a lot more on that side of the ball, but we’re still not where we need to be. We play really well at times, but we are still making some unforced errors, procedure penalties and things like that.”

Jones also noted that the offensive performances from quarterback Rollins Elam and the Jackrabbit receivers have also reached a more productive level.

In only their second season, the Southerners have already taken non-conference wins over Jonesboro Westside and Salem. Their first two conference games of the season put them in the unfortunate position of taking on league front-runners Stuttgart and Newport.

The contest against the Ricebirds proved difficult, with Southside suffering a 41-0 loss. Last week’s loss on the road to Newport, who is picked by many to run away with the conference title this season, was somewhat of a statement for the Southerners. While they gave up 54 points to the ridiculously-fast Greyhounds, they also scored 23 points of their own against the undefeated squad, the most points anyone has scored against Newport all season.

A win this Friday would give Lonoke 3-0 Conference record, which would be its best league start in over eight seasons. It would also give the Jackrabbits their most promising shot of making the postseason in as many years, but Jones says the mentality now is the same as it was in August, focusing on each opponent each week until its time to tally the conference points.

“We have definitely put ourselves in a good position,” Jones said. “But we have got to keep taking it one game at a time. If you keep putting up wins, the playoffs will happen for you. We want to get through this week with a win, and go from there.”
The Jackrabbits and Southerners will play on the Batesville Southside campus Friday with opening kickoff at 7:30 p.m.