JONESBORO — Nettleton head coach Steven Hampton knows his team drew a difficult assignment in the play-in round of the Class 5A state playoffs. He’s just glad the Raiders have the opportunity to take the field.
After being sidelined for three games, the Raiders travel to Maumelle tonight for their first game since Oct. 16.
Nettleton (3-4) canceled games against Forrest City and Valley View when what Hampton described as “a significant number” of players went into quarantine Oct. 22 because of a COVID-19 positive test.
The timing of the quarantine left the Raiders without sufficient time to prepare for last week’s game against Wynne, so it was canceled as well.
Hampton said most of the Raiders returned last week on Thursday and Friday. Nettleton was able to practice both days, he said, and then held a walk-through Sunday to start preparations for Maumelle (5-2).
“There was obviously some rust we had to knock off the first few days and kind of get back into a routine,” Hampton said. “Our kids are excited to get to play another ballgame and we’ve just stressed taking it one day at a time, one game at a time because you don’t ever know right now under the circumstances what’s going to happen from day to day. Our kids are excited and thankful for an opportunity to go play another one.”
Tonight’s winner advances to play Wynne next week. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on KIYS HD2 (FM-94.1).
Most of the Raiders are expected to play, though Hampton said a couple remain unavailable.
“During quarantine, they had symptoms and were positive tests, so they haven’t had enough time to go all the way through the protocol that you have to go through to return to play,” he added. “We’ll still be without a couple of guys, but for the most part we’ve got most of our guys back.”
COVID-19 cancellations have impacted Nettleton’s opponent as well.
Maumelle finished 3-1 in the 5A-Central conference after having games against Pulaski Academy, Jacksonville and Beebe scratched. The Hornets defeated White Hall, but the Bulldogs finished with one more conference victory and thus received a higher seed.
“Defensively their front is really good. They’ve got a defensive tackle who’s a Division I kid, has been offered by Arkansas, and he’s a good player,” Hampton said. “The other defensive tackle, I don’t know what his offers are, but he’s a good player as well. Their front can cause you problems and they’ve got secondary speed. Then offensively, they use a lot of formations, a lot of motion, a lot of shifts. They have an offensive tackle who’s an underclassman who has had some SEC offers and they have some receivers who are fast.”
Nettleton finished 2-2 in the 5A-East. The Raiders lost 28-21 at Greene County Tech in their most recent game.
Quarterback Cameron Scarlett has 1,519 yards total offense, 773 passing and 746 rushing, and has accounted for 19 touchdowns. Running backs Koby Bradley and O’Rion Pugh have combined for 818 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
“Going into it we’re going to have to do some things, gamble a little bit, take some chances and if those things work in our favor, we’ve got a chance to hang in there,” Hampton said. “If we can hang in there the first half, then I believe we’ll be good.
“It’s kind of hard to say how sharp we’ll be. We’ve been pretty sharp in practice, but we haven’t played a ballgame in three weeks. It will be interesting to see how well we execute against somebody else.”