Carlisle’s goal of returning to the Class 2A state football playoffs died last week with its 52-16 loss at Clarendon.
As Mark Uhiren’s team lost three more starters to injury — moving the tally for the season to nine — the Bison fell to 2-6 overall and 2-4 in 6-2A conference play.
Carlisle will finish the season at McCrory (6-1, 5-1) on Thursday.
Should Carlisle knock off McCrory and Clarendon (3-5, 3-3) fall to Des Arc (4-4, 4-3), the Lions would still have the tiebreaker for the No. 5 seed based on last week’s win over the Bison.
“It’s been a rough one,” second-year Bison coach Uhiren said. “Clarendon is a much improved ball team. Their record was exactly the same as ours, but after witnessing their speed firsthand — a couple of those fellows were really, really fast. I look for them to give Des Arc a hard time.”
McCrory is tied with Palestine-Wheatley for second in the conference standings (6-1, 5-1). The Jaguars have lost only to league-leading Hazen (6-2, 6-0). The Jaguars, state champions in 2015, finished 6-4 last year (conference runner-up) after a first-round playoff loss to Salem.
McCrory prevailed over the Bison in a wild one last year, 16-14.
Seven starters return for the Jaguars’ Spread offense with seven also back for the 4-3 defensive scheme.
With their playoff hopes gone for 2017, Uhiren said the Bison would continue to play hard.
“We’re not going out there and practice for three days with the ho-hums,” he said Sunday. “We’re going to go out and practice and coach the heck out of them and be sure the ones that are there and go in to play know what they’re doing. That’s all we can do.
“Hopefully we can execute. I’m sure they’re in pretty good shape with injuries because their numbers were healthy earlier in the season. They’re getting ready for their run at the playoffs.”
Palestine-Wheatley will visit Hazen to end the regular season this week.
Des Arc stands fourth in the conference at 4-4 and 4-3. The Eagles will visit No. 5 Clarendon (3-5, 3-3) this week. Carlisle is sixth at 2-6, 2-4, followed by Marvell-Elaine and Brinkley, tied for seventh at 0-7 and 0-6. They’ll play at Brinkley to avoid the cellar.
The top five teams will move on to the playoffs.
With the nine season-ending injuries — including junior running back Jasean Harper, junior quarterback Braiden Jenkins and junior defensive back Blake Sumner last week — Uhiren said the four freshmen who moved up to varsity at Clarendon were needed.
“Counting those four freshmen, I think I counted 17 on our roster,” Uhiren said. “I’m not even sure we’d be able to play if those junior high kids weren’t able to go.”
The injuries have necessitated movement of personnel.
“It’s almost like playing chess,” Uhiren said. “Some of these were two-way starters. In 36 years of coaching, I’ve never seen anything like this. The old say, ‘When it rains, it pours,’ fits this perfectly.
“At this point, it’s not even about particular talent — it’s just putting people out there to hold the spot down. I always look at it like something good can come out of it if you make it so, but I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”