SPORTS >>Beebe fighting to stay at home
Leader sports editor
The Beebe Badgers and Batesville Pioneers can’t win a conference championship, but their matchup this Friday night at Bro Irwin Stadium is about as big as a regular-season closer can be without a league title on the line.
The two teams are 5-1 in league play, each with a close loss to undefeated Blytheville. That means that Friday’s game is for second place, and more importantly, a home game for the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
Beebe coach John Shannon was glad to see his team improve its game last week in a 28-6 win over Nettleton, but knows that Batesville is the best team his squad has faced other than Blytheville.
The Pioneers lost a one-point thriller to the Chickasaws two weeks ago, and have clobbered all other league opponents.
Their weapons are numerous, and their schemes are complex.
“They are big, got some speed and they’re very well coached,” Shannon said of the Pioneers. “That’s the thing that stands out most to me is how well coached they are.”
Shannon and his staff recognized on film that Batesville does a few things his team will have to be able to recognize before the ball is snapped.
“They don’t run a lot of different plays, but they line up in a lot of different formations,” Shannon said. “They try to get you to line up wrong and then they have the angle on you. Their running back (Tim Hughes) is one of those shifty kids that seems to give us some trouble, so we’d better be able to recognize formations and get in the right spot to stop ‘em.”
Conversely, Batesville coach Dave King is impressed with how physical the Badgers play football. Beebe’s offensive and defensive lines stand out to the head Pioneer.
“I would say up front Beebe is about as good as anyone we’ve seen,” King said. “Offensively and defensively the front line is one of their biggest strengths. They come off that ball low and hard. If you’re not ready to step up and get ready to get in someone’s mustache, you’re going to get lost in the clouds against Beebe because that’s what they do. That’s something I hope our guys will be ready for. We’re trying to make sure they know it, but you never know until they get out there.”
King’s own offensive line has improved by leaps and bounds since the beginning of the year. The Pioneers struggled to beat Searcy, and managed just seven points against Newport in an early-season loss. Since then, the offensive numbers have increased dramatically, and Batesville has blown out its last several conquered foes.
“They’re getting better,” King said of his offensive line. “None of them started last year, so they were all new to it, but they’ve gotten better. Slowly but surely they’ve improved all year long.”
Shannon lost a starting offensive lineman last week, but was pleased with Jason Smith, who stepped in for ?? Wooten and did a good job at guard. Overall, Shannon was pleased with the improvement his team showed since a lackluster effort against Greene County Tech a week earlier.
“It was a lot better,” Shannon said. “I feel like we moved the ball extremely well. We should have had two more touchdowns in the second half. We dropped the ball a couple of times and that cost us, but overall offensive execution was pretty good.”
Shannon was also pleased with the defense.
“The defense got back to playing like they had earlier,” Shannon said. “Nettleton was rolling. They’d been putting up 400 yards or more and over 40 points a game, and we held them to less than 200, so that was good to see.”
Shannon’s praise for King’s system was reciprocated. The head Pioneer expects a very tough game this Friday.
“They’re very well coached and look to be very excited about the position they are in,” King said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence. It should be a battle.”