By Jason Avery
After falling in their season opener, Strong returns to the cozy confines of Jerry Burson Field to open a three-game homestand aiming to get back on track.
Tonight, the Bulldogs host Lake Village in a non-conference clash one day after the five-year anniversary of their last meeting, a 26-12 Strong win.
Game time is set for 7 p.m.
A week ago, the Bulldogs got their first taste of 11-on-11 action against the Lions, and first-year coach Sirl Wright said the loss to the Lions was a learning experience both for him and the team.
“I take it as a learning experience, and I told the kids to take it as a learning experience,” Wright said. “You’ve got to learn what you did wrong and learn through your mistakes. What I’ve learned from a coaching standpoint is that they had way more depth than we did, so we got tired. They had a couple of games to build experience. I think that’s the difference with Week 0.
“If you play Week 0, you get in game shape. You really can’t get in shape before the game unless you play the game, and they were able to get a couple of games and we missed our scrimmage. They had a scrimmage and a Week 0 game, so it gave them a little advantage competition-wise.
“We’ve got to learn to not turn the ball over. We kind of helped them out on scoring because we were having timely fumbles where we gave them momentum. I feel like it was a learning experience for the kids to get their feet wet because it was their first live 11-on-11 competition they had. It was a good dose of humble pie.”
The Lions dominated in the first half, taking a 47-8 lead into intermission before winning 47-14, but Wright said there were some positives that came out of Friday’s contest.
“I told them at halftime that from here on out, what we needed to do was win the second half, and we did,” Wright said. “They competed all the way to the end. They didn’t pack up tents and take it home after halftime. They fought good in the second half. We had some bright spots effort-wise. We definitely have got to get better as far as execution. Endurance-wise, nobody cramped, and I emphasized conditioning because I knew we were going both ways with the small number of kids we have.”
Like the Bulldogs, the Beavers (1-0) opened the season last week after being idle on Week 0, downing Greenville Christian (Miss.) 37-14 for their first season-opening win since 2011.
Lake Village also has an outstanding dual-threat quarterback in senior Aarion Kilgore, who had over 1,800 yards rushing and passing with 21 combined touchdowns as a junior.
Last week, Kilgore went 8-of-14 passing for 190 yards and two scores while rushing for 131 yards and two more scores on 17 carries.
But Kilgore isn’t the only weapon the Bulldogs will have to contend with.
Junior running back Rhoderick Gentry had 75 yards on 14 carries, while fellow junior wide receivers Malakai Armour and Trevon Carraway made their presence felt.
Carraway had three catches for 82 yards, while Armour caught four passes for 60 yards.
“They have a lot of undersized skill players, but they have good speed,” Wright said of the Beavers. “They were hungry to play last week. They seemed pretty energized.”
With a daunting three-game stretch looming with Rison, Junction City and Fordyce to close September, the Bulldogs certainly cannot look past the Beavers, who fell by a combined 16 points in their bids to upset Smackover and Junction City during league play last year.
“We got a good dose of humble pie last week,” Wright said. “I think they’re just looking at this one game and not looking ahead at all. I think they’re up for the challenge Friday night. I believe we’ll be ready to compete Friday night. I don’t see us overlooking them.”
If the Bulldogs are to win their first game of the season, Wright said his team must avoid mistakes.
“No turnovers and we have to execute the plays that are called,” Wright said. “We had a few missed assignments consistently throughout the game, and we addressed that in our film session. We have to bring a high motor and play for four quarters. I think that will be the magic key for us to be competitive and also pull out a win Friday night.”