Pan­thers travel to Searcy

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - SPORTS - By Gra­ham Thomas Staff Writer gth­omas@nwadg.com ■

Siloam Springs has come away from sev­eral long road trips this sea­son with vic­to­ries, but the Pan­thers will have to do it one more time if they want to keep their foot­ball sea­son alive.

Siloam Springs (5-5), the fifth seed out of the 6A-West, makes the 240-mile trek to Searcy on Fri­day for the open­ing round of the Class 6A play­offs.

The Lions (8-2) fin­ished in a three-way tie for sec­ond place in the 6A-East Con­fer­ence with Mar­ion and Jones­boro, but had to set­tle for the fourth seed after the tiebreak­ers were sorted out.

“We’re up against an 8-2 foot­ball team that’s had a re­ally good

sea­son,” said Siloam Springs coach Bran­don Craig. “They have a lot of con­fi­dence and they’re play­ing very good foot­ball right now, which is what you want to be do­ing go­ing into the play­offs. They’ve got some tal­ented kids. But I feel like we’re a team that still hasn’t reached our full po­ten­tial yet, and I’m hop­ing Fri­day night we can do that.”

Searcy is not un­fa­mil­iar to Siloam Springs foot­ball. The Pan­thers lost a 49-48 thriller in the open­ing round of the 2012 play­offs at Searcy. Siloam Springs re­turned to Searcy in 2013 and walked out of Lion Sta­dium with a 26-21 vic­tory.

Searcy’s only losses this sea­son came to 6A-East champ West Mem­phis 56-21 and Jones­boro 41-17.

The Lions are a team that en­joys throw­ing the foot­ball as se­nior quar­ter­back Pey­ton Wright has com­pleted 210 of 368 passes for 2,797 yards, 25 touch­downs and 10 in­ter­cep­tions.

Searcy has a bevy of wide re­ceivers in se­nior Tim Williams (51 catches, 845 yards, 12 touch­downs), ju­nior Tan­ner Leonard (57-629, 6 TDs) and ju­nior Dal­las Loftis (48627, 2 TDs).

Se­nior Tony Young leads the Lions in rush­ing with 662 yards on 144 car­ries with 11 touch­downs, while John­son Guthrie has 85 car­ries for 497 yards and seven scores.

“The quar­ter­back is a good-look­ing kid,” Craig said. “They’re a run-and-shoot air raid-type team. They’re go­ing to throw the ball all over the place. He’s got a good arm. He’s ac­cu­rate. Two in­side re­ceivers are re­ally ac­tive, in­side ex­plo­sive kids. Run­ning back is one of those guys that can do a lot of things with the ball in space.

“De­fen­sively they’re a 3-man front. They’re go­ing to move around. They have

two in­side lineback­ers that look a lot like ours — they’re thumpers. They’re pretty ac­tive de­fen­sively.”

Of­fen­sively, Siloam Springs will counter with its power run­ning game led by se­nior Kaiden Thrailkill, who is among the state lead­ers in rush­ing with 268 car­ries for 1,443 yards and 16 touch­downs.

“He’s been steady for us all year long,” Craig said of Thrailkill. “He’s been the one guy that has been con­sis­tent with his pro­duc­tion. A lot of that starts with the of­fen­sive line and what they’re do­ing and their con­sis­tency up there, the fact that they’ve jelled and got­ten bet­ter to­gether. We’re see­ing a lot of great play out of them. … We’re re­ally happy with what (Thrailkill’s) done and it’s go­ing to take not only him but ev­ery­body we’ve got to play their best game Fri­day night.”

The Pan­thers led Russellville 10-0 in the sec­ond quar­ter last week be­fore the Cy­clones stormed back for a 30-16 win.

Siloam Springs had four trips to the red zone in the first half and only came away with 10 points.

“It’s one of those things where we haven’t learned how to fin­ish yet,” Craig said. “We’re still try­ing to get across some points that you have to take care of the foot­ball in the red zone. You have to cap­i­tal­ize. You have to come away with some­thing whether it’s a field goal or a touch­down, but we have to get some­thing out of those trips. Un­for­tu­nately we haven’t done a great job of that this year.”

Se­nior quar­ter­back Lan­don El­lis has com­pleted 99 of 199 passes (49.7 per­cent) for 1,302 yards, eight touch­downs and eight in­ter­cep­tions.

Gage Weaver and Spenser Pip­pin each have 26 re­cep­tions to lead the team. Weaver has 364 yards re­ceiv­ing and Pip­pin 263. Primo Ag­behi has 12 re­cep­tions for 358 yards, for an av­er­age of nearly 30 yards per catch.

Bud Sullins/Spe­cial to the Her­ald-Leader

Siloam Springs ju­nior Tan­ner Broyles hauls in a 20-yard catch last Fri­day against Russellville.

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