By Jason Avery
After picking up a huge come-from-behind win at Prescott last week, Smackover begins a stretch of playing three home games in four weeks to close the regular season by welcoming Fouke for homecoming Friday.
The Bucks (5-1, 3-0) took a huge step in the 5-3A race with their win over the Curley Wolves, while the Panthers (2-4, 1-2) snapped a four-game losing streak with a 34-14 win over Bismarck.
Junior quarterback Hunter Lansdell had a solid performance last week, completing 17 of his 27 passes for 191 yards with three touchdowns in the win, and Smackover coach Brian Brown said the Panthers have made some tweaks to their offense with Trent Wilson guiding the program after Rick Barker resigned from his post and retired just a few days before the start of the season.
“They’ve gone to a few different things,” Brown said. “They’ve added some spread stuff in there where they throw the ball a little bit, and they run the ball out of the spread, so in that respect, they’ve changed offensively.”
Defensively, Brown said the Panthers will vary their looks.
“They run to the ball well,” Brown said. “I think their D-line has gotten better as the year has gone on. They run a couple of different defenses. They run a little bit of a 4-3, then they’ll line up in a 3-4 some. We just have to be prepared to block both and just continue to do the things that we’ve been doing.”
Although Fouke may be the team standing on the opposing sideline, Smackover’s biggest opponent this week may be themselves.
After winning a critical game last week, the last thing the Bucks want is a letdown, and Brown said it’s a topic he has discussed with his team.
“I do agree with that,” Brown said. “Teams after big games can sometimes ease past confidence and move into an area where you’re comfortable, and that’s a very dangerous, dangerous thing. You need to be moving forward all the time. That happens after big wins, and we talked about it. It’s always a concern.”
Brown added that he doesn’t believe homecoming will keep the Bucks from focusing on the task at hand.
“The distractions are that you have to do a bunch of extra stuff that week. I don’t have a problem with it,” Brown said. “We practice the same every day. We’ll go out there Thursday and do our walk-through and then we’ll get out there Friday. It’s a big week, and they’re doing a lot of stuff, but I don’t really have a problem with it.”
Against Prescott, the Bucks overcame a 20-7 deficit at halftime, and Brown thought the key was the Bucks keeping their poise.
“There’s different ways you can go about it,” Brown said. “We got behind early. We made some adjustments on defense especially as far as getting some things done on some alignment.
“To me, one of the bigger things is I think sometimes when you get behind, especially 20-7 or 14-0 or whatever, you just start doing things that you normally don’t do, and it was too early to do that.
“It’s too early to start launching the ball down the field every play or whatever, so I thought we did a good job of just staying within ourselves. We didn’t have that many possessions during the game. They kept the ball away from us a lot, so that was another thing that had a little bit of an outcome on what was going on. I thought our kids just overcame a lot of things that we haven’t had to do yet. We had a couple of turnovers that we had to overcome. I thought the kids showed a lot of poise in doing that.”
Smackover’s defense came up with two huge stops in the fourth quarter to help seal the win, and Brown lauded their play.
“They played well all night,” Brown said. “I think the first couple of drives, we were misaligned and not really doing some of the things that we needed to do. We were giving the effort, but I thought we were just kind of out of sync there maybe the first two drives only, and we were great after that.
“We’ve played great goal-line defense all year. We’ve had a knack down there. They had a chance to go up two touchdowns, and we had a big hit and strip right at the goal line. I thought we did a good job of hitting and stripping the ball all night, and just having the awareness of knowing where you’re at on the field.
“Our intensity was great. We made some mistakes, and I’m sure Prescott probably thinks they made some, so there’s a lot of good things we can work on from video.”
If the Bucks are to top the Panthers, Brown said they must continue to have success running the ball.
“We need to run the ball,” Brown said. “We need to throw when the opportunity arises on offense. We’ve played good special teams all year, and I think that helped us in the game at Prescott, so I think we need to continue there. We’ve got some things that we need to shore up that we didn’t do well.
“On defense, just playing with the intensity that we played with Friday is going to go a long way for us to have a great season.”