Lonoke’s football Jackrabbits will close out their non-conference schedule Friday against Newport, one of the most storied programs in Arkansas high school football.
Newport put together the longest postseason streak in Arkansas history, reaching the playoffs every year from 1987-2014, before winning just two games in 2015. But an 11-3 march to the Class 3A state semifinals, where they lost to Prescott, the eventual champion, last year signaled a new streak.
Newport won last year’s game, 47-6, en route to that 11-3 mark. Five starters return on each side of the football. The Greyhounds, who tied for the conference title a year ago, were the pick to win in 2017, according to Hooten’s Arkansas Football’s preseason poll of league coaches.
“It’s going to be tough,” Lonoke coach Taggart Moore said. “They’re picked in the top five (in Class 3A). They match up with us physically and athletically. They’ve got a really good quarterback (junior Cash Forrester). He’s a prototype passer. If you don’t get pressure on him, he’s going to throw all over you.”
Forrester (6-2, 215) threw for 1,258 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore, completing 95 of 177 passes, including three TDs against Corning and a 98-yard burner against Osceola.
After two weeks playing against the Diamond T and Dead T offenses, Moore said the Jackrabbits were excited to get to go back and play their base 3-4 defense.
“This is a good opportunity for us,” Moore said. “They’re a 4-front on defense, so that’s a changeover from Beebe. We’re excited for the opportunity. We think we can get a win.”
Lonoke is 1-1 after beating Carlisle in the opener and falling to Beebe last week, 35-13. Newport is 2-0 after wins over Gosnell (15-8) and Greene County Tech (47-15). The Greyhounds have averaged 370 yards per game (297 rushing, 74 passing). Junior Joe Broadus is the leading rusher at 101.5 yards per game.
Lonoke has averaged 322 (168 rushing, 154 passing).
Keys for a Jackrabbit win?
“The offensive line has to pick up the blitz,” Moore said. “We have to keep our heads and eyes up at all times. They like to bring pressure.
“Defensively, we have to get pressure on the quarterback. We’ve got to do that. If not, and you allow him to stand back there, he’s going to pick you apart.
“He’s the best quarterback we’ve seen so far, by far. He’s one of the best we’ll see all year.”
The Jackrabbits had Beebe where they wanted for a half last week, but the Badgers rallied in the second half for the win after Lonoke led at halftime, 7-0.
“We knew they were going to be good,” Moore said. “They’re big up front, and with that offense, if you make one little mistake, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
The Jackrabbits scored in the first half on sophomore Davonte Adams’ three-yard run. But after halftime, the Badgers scored on their opening possession, recovered an onside kick and scored on that series, and made a turnover count.
“Momentum shifted,” Moore said Monday. “I told the kids those things happen, and we’ve got to overcome it. Things like that happen all the time. We spent today stressing how to overcome adversity.
“I thought we played really well the first two quarters; we just didn’t put four together. That’s got to be the focus this week. Overall, I was happy with them. Beebe is a (Class) 5A school,and that’s what the non-conference (schedule) is there for — to show you what you need to work on before conference starts.”
Lonoke’s other touchdown came on an 11-yard pass from Daniel Seigrist to Braidon Bryant. The try for two failed.
Moore praised the play of senior nose guard Keyunta Hatton, who recorded 10 tackles and a blocked field goal.
“I’m really happy with him,” Moore said. “He plays really hard. Daniel (Seigrist) was 21 of 30 (for 198 yards). I thought he played great. The interception wasn’t necessarily 100 percent his fault. He is really smart with the football, and he was trying to make a play. You can’t get mad at that.”
The coach was also pleased with his sophomore running back Adams.
“Starting his first varsity game, he averaged five or six yards a carry,” Moore said. “He showed us he could play. He’s going to be a good backup and a good starter in the future.”
Adams earned 73 yards on 11 carries.
Michael Hodges led the defense with 13 tackles.
“He’s done a great job there at linebacker,” Moore said. “He is definitely our leader. And senior receiver De’Angelo Noid blocked all night long. He blocked so well all night. Receivers don’t always want to block, but he worked really hard at that all night, and he also had a few catches.”
Beebe rolled up 352 total yards, helped by Khalil Anthony’s 120 yards rushing and Taylor Boyce’s 100.
After two games, Xavier Hodge averages 147 yards rushing to lead Lonoke. Daniel Seigrist has accounted for 191 yards per game (154 passing). Hodges is the Jackrabbits’ leading tackler with 10.5 per game.