Central Arkansas Christian survived one of the toughest two-week periods of the Arkansas High School football season Friday, and the Mustangs are glad to get home.
Tommy Shoemaker’s team lost back-to-back road trips, 43-12 at Nashville and 55-14 at Arkadelphia. The Mustangs are 3-3 overall, 1-2 in the 7-4A, heading into Friday’s homecoming match with Bauxite.
Kickoff at Mustang Mountain is at 7 p.m.
“We knew going into the year that this would be a very tough two-week stretch,” said Jack Thomas, the Mustangs’ senior quarterback. “These are two of the top teams in (Class) 4A, if not the outright top two. The only way we can counter their athleticism and depth is by executing perfectly, and that’s something we didn’t do.”
“It’s one of those things where you know you’re going to have to go in and play really well and have the breaks go your way (in order to be competitive),” he said. “(The Badgers) played a really good game, and they got off to a fast start, which is something we wanted to avoid. They’re very athletic and very experienced. That’s a tough combination to overcome.”
The top-ranked Badgers got 273 yards and three touchdowns passing (15 of 19) from senior quarterback Jakahari Howell, who also ran for another score. The Badgers also got 166 yards and two touchdowns from senior tailback Kris Oliver.
Despite the lopsided score and statistics, Shoemaker said he was pleased with his team’s effort.
“I felt a lot better about how hard we played than I did the week before,” he said Sunday. “I thought we kept competing and gave great effort. Sometimes the guy across from you is better than you are and that‘s the way it is, but we still want to give great effort. I was proud of our guys. That’s not easy to do in those situations.”
Bauxite could be a good one for a bounce-back effort.
The Miners are 1-5 overall and 0-3 in conference play. They lost their first two league games to Malvern and Ashdown and suffered a heartbreaking loss to Pulaski Robinson last week, 47-40. Bauxite scored on its first three possessions to build a 20-7 lead early in the second quarter, but the Miners lost four turnovers and fell behind, 47-26. They then put together a fourth-quarter rally but were unable to catch the Senators.
“Bauxite has had a tough stretch,” Shoemaker said. “They lost a tough game the other night they could’ve easily won. We’ve got to do a great job of preparing. Each one of these games now is really going to determine, A, if we make the playoffs, and B, where we fit if we do.
“We’ve got to be ready to play, and I think the matchups won’t be as extreme as the last couple of weeks. But still, those teams have got good players and are well coached. We’ve got to make sure we’re preparing the best we can.”
Bauxite finished 2-8 last year, including a 63-46 loss to the Mustangs. Six starters returned on each side of the football from that team that was within a game of making the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
The Mustangs hope a Miner turnaround doesn’t start this week.
“We’re looking forward to getting back home,” Shoemaker said. “It seems like it’s been forever. We hope we can get on a little bit of a roll here. The season’s winding down here pretty fast. We still have to do a great job of preparing. I expect our guys to play well.”
“As a leader at this point, you have to look forward,” he said. “There’s been a lot of people around the halls jump off the bandwagon, and it’s my job as a leader to keep everyone in the football program together.
“One of the foundations of our football program is how you finish. I think we’ve got a great chance to finish the regular season strong and put ourselves in a good position for the playoffs.”