Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits enjoy run

Lonoke receiver Darius Scott
will be one of quarterback
Michael Nelson’s targets
against Malvern.

Leader sportswriter

At one point this season, it was questionable if Lonoke would even reach the postseason, let alone win a playoff game. The Jackrabbits dropped their first two 2-4A Conference games, fell to 2-3 overall and were scrapping just to keep themselves viable in the chase for a playoff berth. But winning seven straight games has a way of changing things. After beating Warren on Friday, the Jackrabbits have a chance to advance to the semifinals of the 4A state playoffs, but a powerful Malvern Leopards team stands in the way. The Leopards play host to the ’Rabbits in the quarterfinals this Friday at Claude Mann Stadium. Lonoke (9-3) advanced with its 28-26 victory at Warren last week in a game that was not decided until the final horn, when the Lumberjacks came up short on a 46-yard field goal attempt. The Leopards (8-4) had a close call of their own last week against Booneville, but pulled out a 24-23, second-round victory in overtime after cruising through the first round with a 38-0 victory over McGehee. “Their huge defensive line is what sticks out to me,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said of Malvern. “That line is huge, and they have two linebackers that run to the football — that’s what sticks out in my head. Offensively, they spread it out, but they want to run the football.” The Leopards have a pair of shifty running backs in Dontrell Henson and Mario Jameson, but they also have balance in their passing game featuring versatile receiver James King, who can also take snaps in the wildcat formation. Malvern is aggressive defensively in its 3-5 base formation. The linebacker-strong set is effective against the run and the pass, which is necessary when taking on the well-balanced Jackrabbits. “That’s what we’re trying to do,” Bost said. “If they’re stacking the box, we will go to the pass, which will open up the running game. We sure hope we can keep that up.” Offensive balance aided the Jackrabbits last week against Warren. Senior quarterback Michael Nelson went 17 of 28 for one touchdown and one interception, and carried 14 times for 56 yards. Brandon Smith carried 34 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns, and MorganLinton had five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. Lonoke began the playoffs at home with a 48-21 victory over Clarksville, but it was the only game the Jackrabbits were seeded high enough to host, and they play their second straight playoff game on the road Friday. With four of the victories in their seven-game streak coming on the road, Bost said it is not where the Jackrabbits play that matters but that his team is still in the thick of things. “At this point we’re just glad to be playing,” Bost said. “It doesn’t matter how hard the drive is as long as we’re still playing. We’re just taking it week by week and preaching about hanging on to the football. Defensively, we’re just preparing them. We haven’t looked ahead to any other opponents.” Smith had 10 carries against Clarksville, but got much busier last Friday in the Warren game. His 34 rushes made for a physical night for the NCAA prospect. “They really hit us,” Bost said. “A couple of guys were walking around with ice packs on their shoulders, so we’re going to have to take it easy in our practices and not hit too hard. “You pretty much know already who can hit, so rest is as important as anything else at this point.”