Re­match in Lit­tle Rock

Dragons, Colts to meet af­ter 2016 play­off clash

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports - By Ja­son Avery News-Times Staff

On Novem­ber 18, 2016, Junc­tion City walked off a foot­ball field in de­feat.

They haven’t lost since.

Just over 12 months af­ter leav­ing River­crest’s fa­bled Cot­ton Patch with a sea­son-end­ing 14-13 loss in the sec­ond round of the 3A play­offs, the Dragons and Colts will meet Fri­day night in Lit­tle Rock with the 3A state cham­pi­onship on the line.

Should the Dragons pre­vail, they will have avenged all four of their losses from their first sea­son in the 3A ranks.

Al­though Junc­tion City coach Steven Jones wasn’t on the field that night, many of his play­ers were par­tic­i­pants, and they are ea­ger to get an­other shot at the Colts.

“Def­i­nitely,” Jones said. “They have a bad taste in their mouths af­ter River­crest knocked them out of the play­offs last sea­son, and they’re chomp­ing at the bit to get an­other shot at them. Luck­ily, we get a chance to give it a go Fri­day night.”

When the schools met last year, it was a de­fen­sive slugfest.

Junc­tion City scored its points on two de­fen­sive touch­downs while be­ing held to un­der 100 yards of total of­fense.

Junc­tion City’s de­fense held River­crest to just 123 yards of total of­fense, all of which came on the ground.

For a time, it looked like the Dragons were go­ing to ad­vance.

Junc­tion City held a 13-7 lead, but Bruce Parker turned a late mis­cue into an 8-yard touch­down

run with 28 sec­onds left, and Ma­teo Chiri­nos drilled the ex­tra point to break the 13-all tie.

In some cases, grad­u­a­tion strips away many of the key com­po­nents from the pre­vi­ous year’s con­test, but not so in this matchup.

Demilon Brown, River­crest’s ju­nior start­ing quar­ter­back, got plenty of play­ing time as a sopho­more.

Ken­tavi­ous Robinson led the Colts with over 1,500 yards rush­ing as a sopho­more and he opened the scor­ing in last year’s game with a 19-yard run, but he could miss Fri­day’s game af­ter break­ing his arm late in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

J.D. Winda, who av­er­aged nearly 10 yards per carry as a fresh­man and had 55 yards against the Dragons last year, could top the 1,000-yard bar­rier on Fri­day.

Junc­tion City returns its top play­mak­ers from a year ago with Shu­vas­ceiaye Fra­zier, who re­turned a fum­ble for a touch­down, lead­ing the Dragons’ of­fense at quar­ter­back.

Hish­mma Tay­lor, who had 86 yards on 28 car­ries, is also back with a full sea­son un­der his belt as the Dragons’ lead run­ning back af­ter tak­ing over the role late in the 2016 sea­son.

With so many fa­mil­iar faces back, could last year’s con­test of­fer any in­di­ca­tion on how Fri­day’s con­test will un­fold?

“Not re­ally,” said River­crest coach Kelly Chan­dler. “They had a change in coaches so their of­fen­sive scheme is dif­fer­ent. They’ve moved their per­son­nel around.

“Their quar­ter­back now was not play­ing quar­ter­back then, and that’s a big dif­fer­ence when you have a new quar­ter­back and a new coach­ing staff, so there’s not a whole lot we can take from last year.

“I think the play­ers are fa­mil­iar with each other, so they have a good idea of how tough it’s go­ing to be. I think that’s the only thing we can take from last year.”

Chan­dler added that the fa­mil­iar­ity be­tween the play­ers will likely min­i­mize any feel­ing-out process at the start of the game.

“I think so,” Chan­dler said. “I just think the kids know about each other, and they’re go­ing to be ready to go right off the bat. I think ev­ery­body is go­ing to be go­ing full speed pretty quick.”

Some­thing that was a fac­tor in last year’s con­test but shouldn’t be on Fri­day is the weather.

A storm de­layed the start of last year’s con­test and made the play­ing con­di­tions far from ideal.

How­ever, the weather fore­cast in Lit­tle Rock for Fri­day is for cool tem­per­a­tures, but with lit­tle chance of pre­cip­i­ta­tion.

“The con­di­tions will be dif­fer­ent than from last year,” Chan­dler said.

The meet­ing be­tween the Dragons and Colts a year ago was also the fi­nal game for Junc­tion City coach David Car­pen­ter, who re­tired a few weeks af­ter the 2016 sea­son con­cluded.

Since be­ing named as Car­pen­ter’s suc­ces­sor, Jones has taken over the reins of the pro­gram with aplomb, guid­ing the Dragons within one vic­tory of a state cham­pi­onship in his de­but sea­son.

As far as his prepa­ra­tion goes, Jones in­di­cated that while the de­fen­sive staff looked at last year’s film as a point of ref­er­ence, he has not.

“I think our de­fen­sive guys looked at a lit­tle bit of what they did last sea­son,” Jones said. “They haven’t changed much up scheme-wise from what they do.

“On the of­fen­sive side of the ball, I haven’t look at one minute of it. We do a lot of dif­fer­ent stuff than last sea­son, so we just try to fo­cus on what we have go­ing, pol­ish ev­ery­thing up and have a great game plan from what we’ve done this sea­son.”

A year ago, both of­fenses strug­gled, but with nearly 11,000 yards of total of­fense be­tween them this sea­son, the de­fenses on both sides will cer­tainly be chal­lenged.

How­ever, Chan­dler be­lieves that the unit that can find a way to make plays on third down and not hurt it­self with mis­takes will go a long way to­wards who will win the game.

“Who can slow the other team down is def­i­nitely go­ing to be a big key,” Chan­dler said. “Any­body that gives the other team ex­tra downs by penalty or what­ever is go­ing to be strug­gling.

“If you get them in third down, you’ve got to hold them and make them punt. If you don’t and you make a mis­take, don’t tackle or they get a first down be­cause of a penalty or any­thing like that, you’re just hurt­ing your­self and it will be hard to over­come.”

News-Times/Ter­rance Arm­stard

Mak­ing the tackle: Junc­tion City's Dhante Gib­son tries to bring down Osce­ola's Trayveon Moore dur­ing their show­down in the 3A semi­fi­nals last week at David Car­pen­ter Sta­dium. Af­ter meet­ing in the seoond round of the play­offs last year, Junc­tion City and River­crest col­lide for the 3A state ti­tle in Lit­tle Rock on Fri­day night.

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