Hurricane wary of high-scoring Pointers

Jonesboro’s Brodie Williams (center) intercepts a pass in the first quarter of the Hurricane’s victory over Marion last week at Cooksey-Johns Field. Jonesboro hosts Van Buren tonight in the Class 6A state playoffs.

JONESBORO — Van Buren’s record doesn’t indicate the Pointers could be a dangerous opponent for Jonesboro in the Class 6A state football playoffs.

Several of their scores suggest differently.

“You watch them on film and you see differently,” Jonesboro head coach Randy Coleman said. “They’re just really dynamic offensively.”

While Van Buren will enter tonight’s first-round game at Cooksey-Johns Field with a 3-7 record after finishing seventh in the 6A-West, the Pointers also have an offense that has been productive against some of the best teams in Class 6A.

Coleman watched via livestream last week as Benton, the fourth-ranked team in 6A, outlasted Van Buren 60-53. The week before, the Pointers stayed close to No. 1 Greenwood for a half before falling 50-29.

Second-ranked Lake Hamilton, which whipped the Pointers 44-7, is the only Arkansas opponent to shut down Van Buren. The Pointers suffered high-scoring losses in 6A-West play to Siloam Springs (43-42 in overtime) and Mountain Home (49-37), also dropping a hard-fought 28-20 contest to No. 3 Little Rock Parkview.

“We’ve preached to our kids all week to not look at their record, to look at the possibilities of what they can do. We know they are very, very dangerous,” Coleman said. “We have to be sharp because going against a bunch like Van Buren that can score so much, if you have a couple of turnovers and give them extra possessions and good field position, you can put yourself in position to play catch-up against a team that can score a lot anyway.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on KNEA (FM-95.3).

The Jonesboro-Van Buren winner will advance to play Marion, which moved into next week’s second round by forfeit Thursday when the Arkansas Activities Association announced that Benton has dropped out of the playoffs because of a COVID-19 quarantine.

While Van Buren is scoring more than 32 points per game, the Pointers are also giving up more than 35 on average. Other than a 35-0 shutout victory over Alma, they have allowed at least 21 points in every game.

Fueled by a passing game that averages more than 313 yards, Jonesboro (6-3, 5-1 5A-East) averages more than 35 points per game, but Coleman cautioned not to take a big night for granted against Van Buren.

“You can never just sit there and go, ‘All right, we can score against them,’ because they bring a lot of pressure and they do some different things defensively,” Coleman said. “If you’re not sharp, then it could be a long night.”

Rykar Acebo, who took over as Jonesboro’s quarterback when Cross Jumper suffered a season-ending leg injury in the third game, has thrown for 1,980 yards and 19 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.

Tight end Connor Clark leads the Hurricane in receiving with 62 catches for 889 yards and seven touchdowns. Wide receiver Will Barre’, who has 36 receptions for 700 yards and eight touchdowns, returned from an ankle injury last week after missing a game.

Kavon Pointer, with 35 receptions for 564 yards and eight touchdowns, is another threat at wide receiver.

Jonesboro’s defense returned three interceptions for touchdowns in last week’s 42-14 rout of Marion. Cornerback Brodie Williams, a Navy commitment, picked off two passes, giving him five for the season. Linebacker Marco Avant, an Arkansas commitment, leads the team in tackles with 84, while defensive lineman Nate Light has a team-high six quarterback sacks.

Van Buren senior quarterback Gary Phillips, who has made a verbal commitment to Army, impresses Coleman.

“He’s a big kid who can run or throw. Then they’ve got two wide receivers in Jaiden Henry and Chi Henry. … they’re very, very good players,” Coleman said. “Jaiden is shorter and ultra-fast, explosive, and Chi is a big, tall, long receiver with good speed. Then they’ve got two other receivers who complement them very well and can also run the ball, especially with the quarterback.”