Wild­cats to take on Pan­thers

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports - By Tony Burns Sports Edi­tor

El Do­rado will open up its home foot­ball sched­ule tonight when the Wild­cats host for­mer de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor John Pan­ter and his Mag­no­lia squad. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Memo­rial Sta­dium.

El Do­rado is 2-0 and com­ing off an im­pres­sive 28-24 win at Class 7A Cabot.

The flexbone-based Pan­thers (1-1) beat Cros­sett 28-19 be­fore fall­ing to Mon­ti­cello 28-27 last week.

“We felt pretty good af­ter week one. Ob­vi­ously, we took a step back last week,” said Pan­ter. “That was a very odd game we had last week. When you turn the ball over five times in the sec­ond half, I don’t know very many peo­ple around this state that you’re go­ing to be suc­cess­ful against. When you’re a flexbone of­fense and your long­est drive of the night is four plays, there’s a prob­lem.

“On the plus side, we had over 350 yards rush­ing. It was just feast or famine. We would go two plays and a touch­down, two plays and a turnover … just very odd events that would hap­pen.”

For El Do­rado, this will be back-to-back weeks to face a power, op­tion-ori­ented rush­ing

of­fense.

Coach Scott Reed said Cabot had one break-away threat at run­ning back while Mag­no­lia has at least two.

“Their three run­ning backs, if they get in space, they’re fast enough to where we’d have a hard time get­ting them down,” he said.

“When they do get a spot to run, if we can hold them to eight to 10 yards, we should be O.K. there. But, if they bust off 50-yard runs like they have the first two weeks, then they’re go­ing to score points. And, they have a few kids who can run.”

As for the turnovers, fum­bles comes with the ter­ri­tory with this type of of­fense.

“They went through the same thing last year. You know they had a big turnover against us right be­fore the half that John Hall went and scored. They were go­ing in be­fore half try­ing to go ahead. And, it went from them be­ing ahead to us hav­ing a 10-point lead or some­thing,” said Reed.

“The lat­ter part of the year, they got good at it and they didn’t turn the ball over and they did re­ally well in their con­fer­ence and made the play­offs.

“With all the read­ing and rid­ing and pitch­ing, it does take awhile. We need to cre­ate some turnovers. We do.”

For the sec­ond week in a row, mak­ing plays on third down will be piv­otal for the Wild­cats’ de­fense.

“You worry about time of pos­ses­sion. I look at last week. Our time of pos­ses­sion wasn’t very good,” said Reed.

“But, we scored points in the red zone. We were 3-for-3 touch­downs in the red zone and we didn’t turn the ball over. As well as we played and we had much more of­fense than them, it was still a four-point game. So, ev­ery pos­ses­sion is very im­por­tant.”

The Wild­cats got a big dosage of tight end counter from last week’s Pan­thers.

This week’s Pan­thers might try some­thing sim­i­lar, although prob­a­bly not with the tight ends.

“It’s not like there’s go­ing to be any great se­cret, com­ing from Cabot to what’s com­ing from us,” said Pan­ter.

“That’s the thing about this of­fense, it makes you de­fend re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. El Do­rado is a very tal­ented team. Look­ing at them de­fen­sively, they’re big. They’re strong. They’re phys­i­cal. They’re fast. It’s go­ing to be a tough chal­lenge but we’re look­ing for­ward to it.”

De­fen­sively, Mag­no­lia nor­mally runs a 4-3 although it sur­prised El Do­rado last sea­son, un­veil­ing a new align­ment.

“Last year, they played us an odd front all night. They did not play a 4-3 against us last year. You never know about old Pan­ter,” Reed said with a laugh.

“I’m sure he’ll have some new pack­age for us, de­fen­sively or of­fen­sively, which he should. He should have some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Last year, they did kind of catch us off guard be­cause they had been an even front team.”

El Do­rado un­leashed its pass­ing game last week with Dar­ius Holly en­joy­ing one of the best games of his ca­reer, in­clud­ing four touch­down passes to three dif­fer­ent re­ceivers.

“I thought he was good in the first game, too. If you look at both of the weeks, his per­cent­age is just phe­nom­e­nal. And, he’s been re­ally good with the ball,” Reed said of Holly.

“He’s been de­ci­sive on his throws. There hasn’t been one throw that a de­fender has got a hand on. And, four touch­down passes in one ball game against a good op­po­nent, that’s re­ally good.”

El Do­rado’s of­fen­sive bal­ance is a cause of con­cern for Mag­no­lia, which will have to de­fend both the run and the pass.

“They’re one of the most tal­ented teams I’ve seen around the state this year. They have ex­plo­sive play­mak­ers,” said Pan­ter.

“They’ve been young for a cou­ple of years and now those kids are se­niors. This is a class that had great suc­cess as a ninth grade group. They’re start­ing to hit stride th­ese first two weeks.

“It’s go­ing to be a fun night to play in a good en­vi­ron­ment. We’re look­ing for­ward to a great night. You know he’s putting in, prob­a­bly, about seven dif­fer­ent trick plays for us. I’ve known him too long.

“He’s go­ing to have some put-ins. He may even throw out the old bounce pass. There’s no telling what he’s go­ing to try to pull out. He’s done it be­fore.”

Pan­ter is still build­ing his pro­gram at Mag­no­lia.

He said changing the at­ti­tudes and mind-sets has been the big­gest hill.

But, he likes where his Pan­thers are headed.

“Ob­vi­ously, we’re go­ing to have to play ex­tremely well. We have to take care of the foot­ball and play mis­take-free foot­ball,” he said.

“It’s go­ing to be a great chal­lenge but I like our kids and what we bring to the ta­ble. The big­gest thing for us is to go, cut loose and play.

“Just know who we are and don’t get out­side of who we are and just go play.”

As for the Wild­cats, Reed said he’s ex­cited to de­but an un­de­feated team at Memo­rial Sta­dium.

“It’s nice. I can guar­an­tee you that. We’re glad to be at home,” he said. “I hope we have a great crowd. I sure ex­pect it. I think it’ll be a great at­mos­phere and a good ball game.

“There’s a lot of ex­cite­ment about our team and it’s an­other ri­valry game, play­ing peo­ple from right down High­way 82.

“We need to play well at home. It’s im­por­tant that we get off to a good start there.”

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