Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

SPORTS >> Season, Bost era to begin against Pulaski Robinson

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Pulaski Robinson will be Lonoke’s third opening-week opponent in as many years.

The Jackrabbits opened 2007 with a close loss to Hot Springs, and beat Dumas during the first game of Hooten’s kickoff week last season at the Arkansas-Pine Bluff campus.

Pulaski Robinson will enter Abraham Field on Friday trying to shake off its disappointing 2008 campaign in which the Senators went 1-9. Pulaski Robinson started last year with an 18-0 victory over Hamburg before dropping its final nine games by an average of 20 points.

Inexperience with a young line up hurt the Senators chances in many of those losses, but the experience gained by coach Todd Eskola’s group last year could give them an advantage in 2009.

“That’s a team that was forced to play a lot of sophomores last year,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “But he has 18 starters coming back — a lot of them juniors. They have a lot of speed in their skill spots. They look much improved.”

It was a dire situation for the Senators last year with only five seniors and just two with game experience. Strength was a big factor with only two players who could bench over 200 pounds.

In all, 18 sophomores started on Fridays for Pulaski Robinson.

“We were a JV team last year. We grew up basically,” Eskola said. “The kids are a year older, and a lot stronger and faster.

They’ve been a good group all the way through the system; they just got thrown to the wolves last year.”

Lonoke enjoyed the most success it has had in several years last season. The ’Rabbits won the 2-4A Conference title and reached the quarterfinals of the 4A playoffs.

But with many key players graduated and a new coach in Bost, there are some unknowns in 2009.

Bost has been a part of the Lonoke program as head varsity track coach and freshmen football coach for the past six years.

Friday, however, will mark the first time Bost has stood on the sidelines at the helm of the varsity football team.

The offense, led by senior quarterback Michael Nelson, got off to a good start in last week’s scrimmage against Oak Grove, scoring 38 points in the first half.

“We did some good things,” Bost said. “There were also some things we didn’t like that we’ve been working on. They had a lot of enthusiasm out there and played as a team. That’s what we wanted to see from them.”

The Senators did not have as much offensive productivity in their two scrimmages against Mills and North Pulaski, but they only ran a small part of their playbook. Eskola said to expect his offense to be more multiple this week.

“I think we match up with Lonoke pretty good,” Eskola said, praising Jackrabbits receiver Darius Scott and tailback Brandon Smith. “Our offense was so vanilla — we only had about eight plays in our scrimmage. That’s only about 15 or 20 percent of what we run.”

Neither team should surprise the other with a defensive look. Both teams play out of a 4-3 base, which is also the preferred style of a number of teams in the 2-4A Conference. Bost had an opportunity to scout his opening-week opponent and its defense at the Senators’ four-team scrimmage last week.

“What we saw was the 4-3 — that’s something we’ve gone against and feel pretty good about,” Bost said. “It will be a lot like playing Stuttgart. They are big and fast like that. Robinson has always been known for having those types of kids. That should help get us ready for conference.”

The Jackrabbits will have to go without sophomore guard/defensive lineman Brenden Ellington, 6-1, 315 pounds, who suffered a foot injury and will be out until next week. Bost said he had planned on using Ellington on Friday as one of his main subs on the line until Ellington’s injury.