Wildcats to take on Panthers
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
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.”