JONESBORO — Jonesboro is right where it wants to be.
A victory in tonight’s 6A-East showdown at Sylvan Hills would give the Hurricane the conference’s No. 1 seed in the state playoffs. Four consecutive victories, all in league play, have put Jonesboro in position to wrap up a championship with a win in Sherwood.
Sylvan Hills is right behind the Hurricane, however, and could claim the No. 1 seed from the 6A-East with victories in its last two games.
“This is it. You want to be in this position and here it is,” Jonesboro coach Randy Coleman said. “If you win, you’re the one seed and if you lose, you’re going to need help, but you won’t control your own destiny anymore. It’s big and it’s on the road against a good offense and defense.
“It’s going to be quite a challenge, but it should be hard. To win a conference championship, it should be hard.”
Coleman said the Hurricane (5-2, 4-0 conference) will have to be disciplined on both sides of the ball against the Bears (5-3, 4-1 conference).
Sylvan Hills utilizes a flexbone offensive scheme under new coach Chris Hill, who returned to the high school level after three seasons as an assistant coach at Harding University. The Bears won 33-7 last week at El Dorado, handing the Wildcats their first conference loss.
“You almost think of it like a boxing match,” Coleman said. “They’re going to work the body and jab with the quarterback and fullback, and then try to throw a roundhouse with those fast wings.”
Jonesboro stuffed Searcy 48-14 last week, limiting the Lions to 97 yards rushing and 237 total. The Hurricane have limited opponents to roughly 3.3 yards per carry on the season.
Coleman said the Hurricane simulated the Bears’ offense as best it could in practice.
“It’s just different because there is so much motion. So much happens quickly with the fullback so close,” Coleman said. “You have to be really, really disciplined in what you do. That’s going to be the test. We like our plan, but they’re going to test your discipline.”
Sylvan Hills has allowed only 43 points in conference play. The Bears’ lone 6A-East loss came in a 10-7 setback at Marion.
Featuring a strong passing game, Jonesboro has scored 172 points in four 6A-East games. Quarterback Rykar Acebo has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 1,480 yards and 16 touchdowns, with five interceptions.
Coleman said receiver Will Barre’ is likely out this week with a high ankle sprain. Acebo still has plenty of targets in TE Connor Clark (51 receptions, 600 yards, five touchdowns) along with WRs Kavon Pointer (31 catches, 502 yards, seven touchdowns) and Dawson Wagner (23 catches, 329 yards, two touchdowns).
“Defensively they’re going to play man and they’re going to dare you to throw it deep on them. That’s a low-percentage pass, but offensive coordinators are drawn to thinking they can complete the long pass over and over,” Coleman said. “You see them do that and fail. I think their defense has given up eight points a game in conference play. It’s going to take some real discipline on both sides of the ball.”