Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

SPORTS>>Look for Bears to hang with Panthers, but come up short

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

It was mixed results for The Leader prediction panel last week, but we did call what no one else would — a win for North Pulaski over Searcy.

Call us crazy if you want, but we got that one right.

This week the picks are even tougher. Games that would have been easy to pick just two years ago has The Leader “experts” scratching our heads in 2008. One thing that can be guaranteed regardless of who you’re picking, there are going to be some great games this Friday, and a lot of games thatshould go down to the wire.

But, it’s a long season yet, so we have to improve on that 66 percent accuracy rating from Week 1, so here goes:

Sylvan Hills at Cabot

The Panthers are expected to clean house during their non-conference schedule, but Hillside always brings its ‘A’ game when it takes on Cabot. Calling an upset in this one would be a bit excessive, but we do believe that the Bears will give them all they want. Cabot may not be able to gain yards on the ground at will like last week, at least until the fourth quarter when the difference in conditioning takes over.

Cabot 27, Sylvan Hills 20

Jacksonville at Vilonia

This one could shape up to be an early-season classic. Some say that this will be an easy win for the Eagles, but not if you listen to Vilonia coach Jim Stanley. Stanley has a reputation in the sports writing community as being a pretty straight shooter.

And if that’s the case, the Red Devils could have something for them. But he’s also been known to talk his opponents up too much. Which is he doing? We’ll find out on Friday.

Vilonia 28, Jacksonville 24

North Pulaski vs Oak Grove

Go back and try to find the last time these two programs played each other with unbeaten records (I’ll give you a hint: NEVER). If the Falcons gained respect with a season-opening win over Searcy, think of the confidence the Hornets picked up after downing 5A powerhouse LR Christian. And they not only won, they shut down all-state runner Michael Dyer.

We’re going to rely on the confidence/momentum ratio factor for this game, and our BS-Modulator leans toward the Hornets.

Oak Grove 20, North Pulaski 16

Lonoke at Beebe

Last year’s blowout by Beebe was a bit of an anomaly for this local rivalry. Though in different counties, these two programs have fairly close ties, and this usually makes for a dandy game that has been known to go down to the wire on more than one occasion.

This year, speed versus power seems to be true more than any other year in recent memory. The Badgers have won the past three, and that streak has to come to an end at some point — this year, to be exact. This will be another good-old- fashioned shootout, but the speed of the Jackrabbits’ receivers will go unmatched.

Lonoke 32 Beebe 30

Riverview at Carlisle

The Raiders surprised us all in their first varsity outing, which makes it even harder to pick against them this week. They managed to outplay a tradition-rich 2A school last week, and maybe they can prove me wrong for a second week. It’s probably going to take a lot more than a heroic effort from junior QB Grafton Harrell this week, however.

Carlisle 35, Riverview 23

Jessieville at Harding Academy

The Wildcats were the other team that threw a wrench into our picks last week, and we won’t make that same mistake again this week. Jessieville has just as much tradition as the Wildcats, but its switch to the passing game will not come without a few growing pains. Meanwhile, young HA quarterback Seth Keese will only continue to improve after a solid debut last week.

Harding Academy 42, Jessieville 27

Searcy at Batesville

The Lions’ looked better in the Spread last week than at anytime during their ill-fated Spread campaigns of 2005-06. Young QB Matt Ingle didn’t let the big North Pulaski linemen intimidate him in the pocket, which resulted in a 71 percent completion ratio. The Pioneers opened their season with a big win against rebuilding Newport. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but we will err on the side of caution. The Lions are no doubt improved, but enough to beat a powerhouse like Batesville?

Batesville 24, Searcy 13