JONESBORO — Jonesboro coach Randy Coleman describes his team’s annual contest with Conway as a barometer game.
The teams have played each season since 2010 with the exception of 2012, when the game was canceled because of stormy weather. While the Wampus Cats won nine of those 10 meetings, Coleman said the Hurricane learns where it is and what needs to be fixed before conference play by playing them.
Conway won the last four meetings and the seventh-ranked Wampus Cats (1-1) look just as imposing to Coleman this year.
“In all honesty, we need to play a near-perfect game to win. That’s expecting them to play the way they’re capable of playing,” Coleman said. “It’s high school football, anything can happen, but in order to win we’re going to have to play flawless in all three phases and they’re going to have to make some mistakes, but we know that every year going into this game.
“The one thing I’m always pleased about coming after it is we’re going to compete and at the end of the night, we hope we’re better this week than we were last.”
Jonesboro (1-1) visits Conway this evening to close non-conference play. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Hurricane, which will join the Wampus Cats in Class 7A next season, suffered its first loss last week at second-ranked Cabot. The Panthers capitalized on a couple of turnovers to take a two-touchdown halftime lead and went on to a 47-27 victory.
Conway took advantage of six Bentonville turnovers, two of which resulted in defensive touchdowns, to knock off the eighth-ranked Tigers 55-41 on the road last week. The Wampus Cats suffered a 41-24 loss at No. 6 Fayetteville in their season opener.
“Bentonville is very good and Fayetteville is very good, so the opponent level they’ve been playing is extremely high,” Coleman said. “Mistakes can snowball and obviously it did with Bentonville, and Conway capitalized. That’s what good teams do when you make a mistake. We have to limit mistakes and try to make them earn all the points they get.”
While turnovers proved costly last week, the Hurricane had some success offensively as Rykar Acebo completed 24-of-35 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
Jesse Washington led the Hurricane in receiving with six receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. Kavon Pointer caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, while Latrell Brown had four receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown. Jonesboro gave up six sacks against Cabot, reducing its net rushing yards to 98. Brock McCoy led the Hurricane with 77 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
“Honestly in the first quarter we had two passes that were just a yard overthrown that would have been a 60-yard touchdown pass and a 50-yard touchdown pass,” Coleman said. “Rykar was under a considerable amount of pressure because Cabot’s front is really good, but I thought he played tremendous. He distributed the ball.”
Through two games, Acebo has completed 64 percent of his passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns, with two interceptions.
Pointer, Jonesboro’s receiving leader through two games with 12 receptions for 191 yards, will sit out tonight because of an ankle sprain, Coleman said. Pointer was able to practice Monday, but with an open date next week followed by the Sept. 24 conference opener against El Dorado at Cooksey-Johns Field, Coleman said Jonesboro coaches felt it would be best to hold him out of tonight’s game.
Washington has caught nine passes for 122 yards and Tyrin Ruffin has six receptions for 107 yards. Andre Reed is Jonesboro’s defensive leader with 12 tackles and two interceptions.
Coleman said Conway’s offense looks more balanced this season because of the Wampus Cats’ talent at running back and size on the line. Defensively, he said the Wampus Cats won’t blitz as much as Little Rock Catholic or Cabot.
“They really rely on that front four to do the job and they’re very capable of doing it,” he said. “They’re going to be able to provide some pressure with the front four and then cover in the secondary, which is tough because your windows are going to be smaller. We’ve got the ultimate trust in Rykar. We’ll go out there and throw it around and see what happens.”