Heading into the final week of the regular season, Lonoke’s football Jackrabbits remain in contention for a Class 4A state playoff berth.
Several scenarios are possible, but Taggart Moore’s team (3-6, 2-4 in 2-4A play) must win at Riverview (6-3, 3-3) on Thursday to move on to the post-season, which starts next week.
“We just need to win by (at least) seven and that puts us in for sure,” Moore said Monday. “If we do that, we can let everything else play out. But we don’t have to have another team fight our battle for us, which is what we wanted.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
With the top five teams advancing to the playoffs from the 2-4A, Stuttgart is tied with Heber Springs and Southside Batesville atop the conference standings at 5-1. The trio has beaten each other. The Ricebirds are 6-3 overall and have lost only to Southside in league play; Heber Springs is also 6-3 and has lost only to Stuttgart. The Panthers will play at Helena-West Helena Central this week. Southside is 8-1 overall, having lost only to Heber Springs. The Southerners will finish the regular season at winless Baptist Prep this week.
Riverview and Helena-West Helena Central are tied for fourth in the conference at 6-3, 3-3. Riverview plays host to Lonoke this week. The Jackrabbits stand sixth at 3-6 and 2-4. CAC is seventh at 1-8 and 1-5. Baptist Prep is eighth at 0-9, 0-6.
League playoff scenarios regarding the Jackrabbits include:
— If Helena-West Helena beats Heber Springs and Lonoke beats Riverview, Helena-West Helena would have the fourth seed and Lonoke the fifth;
— If Heber Springs beats Helena-West Helena and Lonoke beats Riverview by at least seven points, the Jackrabbits would get the fourth seed and Riverview the fifth;
— If Heber Springs beats Helena-West Helena and Lonoke beats Riverview by less than seven, Riverview would have the fourth seed and Helena-West Helena the fifth and Lonoke would be finished;
— If Lonoke loses to Riverview, the Raiders would get the fourth seed and Helena-West Helena the fifth and Lonoke would be through.
“If we could get the 4 seed, we feel like that’s a winnable game against a 3 seed,” Moore said. “It’s not a big push for a 4 to beat a 3. If we end up with a 5, we’d get a 2 seed, and that’s looking more like Arkadelphia, which is rolling. But we just want an opportunity to line up.
“But from where we were last year to this year and having this opportunity, it’s great. Last year we were trying to keep our heads above water. This year we’re still in the thick of things.”
Riverview’s Raiders have already put together their best season since also winning six games in 2012 and ‘13. They are bidding for their first Class 4A state playoff berth, having been shut out of the post-season since reaching the Class 3A playoffs in 2013.
Riverview finished 4-6 last year, including a 42-21 win over the Jackrabbits. Ten starters return on each side of the football from that squad. The Raiders will run the Spread offense and a 3-4 defense.
“Riverview is really talented,” Moore said. “Their quarterback is probably the best player in the conference, in my opinion. He’s a good game-breaker. He runs the ball really well, so we need to keep him under wraps.
“We match up well with their offensive line and defensive lines. They’re not just real big up front, which is good for us, and they also do some things on defense that we feel like our offense can take advantage of. They don’t play a ton of technique; they’re more of a go-get-it defense.
“I’ve felt comfortable with our defense all year. I feel like we’ll play well and they’ll always keep us in the game and give us a chance.”
With the regular-season finale set for Thursday, the Jackrabbits had full practices Monday and Tuesday and their walk-through Wednesday.
“When you get to Week 10, you’re at the point where the kids are beaten up and banged up and bruised up, so practices get a little lighter and you’re just trying to get them to game day,” Moore said. “The kids are excited, especially when we found out all the playoff possibilities, which was our main goal to begin with.”
Last week, the Jackrabbits fell to Stuttgart, 46-6.
“We just didn’t play well,” Moore said. “I told them when you’re playing the best team in the conference, you need to play your best and have no mistakes, and that’s not what happened.”
The Jackrabbits did strike first, going up 6-0 on E’Shaun Brown’s scoop-and-score from 67 yards with 9:24 left in the opening quarter. The game was tied, 6-6, after the Ricebirds got a seven-yard run by Kirk Hughes midway through the period.
Stuttgart took the lead for good midway through the second quarter on a 16-yard run, 12-6.
“After their touchdown, they kicked a surprise onside kick, not on purpose, and it took a bad bounce, hit off Michael Hodges’ leg and flew up in the air and they recovered it,” Moore said. “The momentum shifted. They scored, and then they came back and did an actual onside kick. There was another bad bounce and they got it again and scored.”
The Ricebirds led at the break, 32-6.
“They were just really good up front and we couldn’t fight our way back into it,” Moore said. “Late in the game we had to start pressing and turned the ball over. Later we were trying to score quickly, and we had a fumble that turned into a scoop-and-score.
“Our offense didn’t put us in the greatest positions, but they’re a really good football team. Give all the credit to them.”
The Jackrabbits earned 220 yards of offense, including 186 on the ground. Xavier Hodge was the leading rusher with 59 yards on 13 carries. Defensively, Hodges led the tackle chart with 11.
Moore said Lonoke had more than 60 players on its roster after moving up nearly 20 from the junior high squad last week.