By Jason Avery
After a gut-wrenching loss, Smackover cleared a big hurdle by bouncing back to top Fouke in their conference opener last Friday.
Now the Bucks are hoping their two-game road trip will yield more positive results than their last road venture.
On Friday night, Smackover will play at Lake Village in a 6-3A clash of conference leaders.
Game time is set for 7 p.m.
The Bucks (2-2, 1-0) snapped a two-game losing streak with their aforementioned win over Fouke, while the Beavers (2-2, 1-0) followed suit by winning at Drew Central last week.
A year ago, the Bucks downed the Beavers 42-12 at Smackover, but it was the visitors who drew first blood thanks to a touchdown pass from Aarion Kilgore.
A junior who earned All-Conference honors last year, Kilgore leads the team in rushing with 560 yards and seven touchdowns, including three games of 130 yards or better.
Against Drew Central, Kilgore rushed for 245 yards and four scores on 22 carries.
However, he has struggled throwing the ball, completing just 35 percent of his passes for 526 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.
But while the Beavers' passing attack has struggled (25 percent on pass completions for 182 yards) in the last two weeks, Kilgore has no shortage of receivers, as 11 players have at least one catch this season with Likendrick Wilson (eight catches, 141 yards, two touchdowns) and Malakai Armour (five catches, 157 yards, one touchdown) serving as the Beavers' leaders in catches and yards receiving respectively.
Given his ability to beat defenses with his legs and arm, the Bucks are keenly aware of the challenge they have this week.
"They're a spread offense, and their quarterback is really good," said Smackover coach Mike Baysinger. "They've got a couple of good receivers with good size and speed. They're probably just as athletic as anyone we've played so far. Right now, everything poses a threat. We've got to be mentally ready to go ourselves in order to win."
Against Fouke, the Bucks got out of the gate slowly.
With the game scoreless late in the first half, Damarous White provided a spark by racing 67 yards for a touchdown that gave the Bucks the lead.
Baysinger thought the slow start was a bit of a hangover from the heartbreaking loss to Fountain Lake coupled with it being homecoming.
"A little bit, and then homecoming is a long day. We were out in the heat a lot," Baysinger said. "There's a lot of stuff going on that week. I think it was just one of things that came with it being homecoming sometimes."
The second half was a different story.
Leading 12-6 at intermission, the Bucks pulled away in the third quarter with White scoring two more times en route to finishing with 150 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries.
"It was like two different teams showed up in the second half," Baysinger said.
"We looked a lot better and a lot more physical."
In addition to White, quarterback Roshard Boone went 10-of-13 passing for 196 yards with a touchdown for the Bucks, who had 462 yards of total offense.
"I thought Damarous White had a real good game, and (Roshard) Boone had a real good game," Baysinger said. "I thought those two did pretty well. Our O-line was exceptional in the second half, and our defense did real well. They gave up only one defensive touchdown."
Boone's touchdown pass was a 50-yard strike to Jaqueze Modica, marking the second straight week the duo has collaborated on a long pass play, and Baysinger said the offense is making progress.
"Slowly but surely," Baysinger said. "It's a building process. It's going to take a little time, but it's getting a little bit better, and I think the kids are feeling a little bit more comfortable with everything going on."
Smackover's defense also turned in a solid performance, holding Fouke to just 139 yards of total offense.
"They've been pretty consistent, playing pretty well so far," Baysinger said.
"As long as they stay with it, I think they're going to be fine."
As the Bucks get ready to reach the halfway point of the season, Baysinger said his team continues to improve.
"They continue to get better every week," Baysinger said. "It's one of those deals where we still need to keep improving.
"They've gotten better week to week with what we've done. They're doing a good job, and there's room to improve. Right now, they're doing pretty good."
The last time Smackover hit the road, they were downed at Harding Academy.
With the Bucks set to begin an important two-game conference road trip, Baysinger said his team must play for four quarters if they want to get off on the right foot.
"I'd like to see us put a whole game together offensively and defensively," Baysinger said. "We need to cut down on penalties and mistakes on special teams."