The focus turns to themselves as Central Arkansas Christian’s Mustangs begin 7-4A conference play Friday against Arkansas Baptist.
Kickoff at Mustang Mountain is at 7 p.m.
After last week’s 43-29 loss to Little Rock Christian, Tommy Shoemaker’s Mustangs are 2-1. Arkansas Baptist lost to Camden Harmony Grove last week, 26-13. The Eagles are 1-2 after falling earlier to Clinton, 56-33, and knocking off Dover, 55-40.
“Our biggest thing is we’re focusing on us — correcting mistakes and executing,” Shoemaker said. “We’ve got to have a better week of preparation. I didn’t feel like we had our best week of preparation last week, and it showed up Friday.
“We’ve got to learn to prepare during the week if you want to play well on Friday. We’ve got some young guys having to learn that the hard way.”
CAC won the match last year, 38-15.
“They’ve struggled lately, but I thought they played real well against us last year,” Shoemaker said. “We didn’t pull away until late in the game. I imagine they’ll be ready to play and do a good job, particularly on offense throwing the football.”
The Eagles won nine games in 2010 and 11 in 2011.
But Arkansas Baptist finished 3-7-1 last year, tied for fifth in the conference, by winning its final two regular-season games, 54-41 over Ashdown and 33-2 over Pulaski Robinson, and lost at Highland in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs, 49-8. It was the Eagles’ first trip to the Class 4A state playoffs.
They returned eight starters for their 3-4 defensive scheme and seven — including junior quarterback Riley Perkins (6-0, 175) — for the Spread offense. Perkins threw for 3,449 yards and 34 touchdowns as a sophomore, including 435 yards and eight touchdowns in the win over Ashdown. He hit senior Dillon Newkirk for the Eagles’ two scores last week.
“He’s a good thrower and they’ve got good receivers,” Shoemaker said. “Other than Friday in the slosh, they’ve done a pretty good job of moving the ball and scoring points. Defensively, we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
The Mustangs were tied with Little Rock Christian at halftime last week, 14-all, but gave up a couple of Paxton Thomas touchdown receptions to find themselves down 28-14 early in the third quarter.
CAC scored on an eight-yard run by sophomore Braylon Harris, a 27-yard pass from Jack Thomas to Stephen Flanigan (with a two-point conversion pass from Thomas to Adam Weiner), a 53-yard pass from Thomas to Jack Partlow and a five-yard run by Thomas (with a two-point conversion run by Partlow).
Thomas completed 19 of 42 passes for 334 yards and the two TDs.
But the outcome was a little tough for the Mustangs to bear.
“We certainly didn’t capitalize on some opportunities we had,” Shoemaker said. “We drove down a couple of times and didn’t get any points out of it and then turned it over. We gave up a fluke pass on fourth down on their first drive.
“But they played well. I give them a lot of credit for making plays. It could’ve gone either way, and we didn’t do enough good things to make things go our way.
“We’re just disappointed. We were good enough to win and didn’t get it done.”
The Mustangs were within a score midway through the fourth quarter.
“I felt like if we could get a stop, I thought we’d pull it out, but we didn’t make the plays we needed to make on defense,” Shoemaker said. “We gave up a couple of big plays, and I think our lack of depth hurt us a little bit late.
“We have to keep trying to build some depth through the year. We’ve got a lot of young players, and at times we looked a little young. But we’ve got to get ready for conference. It’s a new season.”