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Parkers Chapel to face Des Arc

by Jason Avery | November 11, 2021 at 10:00 p.m.

It’s unusual to see a team in the playoffs having undergone a change at quarterback, but two schools that have done that will be colliding in the opening round of the playoffs.

Tonight, Parkers Chapel hits the road seeking their third postseason victory in school history and second in three years when they travel to Des Arc.

Game time is set for 7 p.m.

The Trojans (1-7), the No. 4 seed from the 8-2A, enter the postseason on a four-game losing streak with their lone win of the season coming at Bearden last month.

The Eagles (8-2), the No. 2 seed from the 6-2A, shared the league title with Clarendon and Hazen. Des Arc’s seven-game winning streak ended with a 47-0 loss to Clarendon last week.

The schools haven’t met since playing in the 2010 and 2011 seasons with Parkers Chapel winning both meetings.

Both schools will be led by young quarterbacks who will be making their first postseason starts with sophomore Cache Flanagan getting the nod for Des Arc and freshman Dyson Dougan starting for PC.

“They’re built on the run,” Parkers Chapel coach Elliot Jacobs said of the Eagles. “They run the flexbone. We’ve got to stop the fullback. They’ve got two very good backs they can give it to. They’re 95 percent run, so defensively for us, it’s going to be if our guys can handle it.”

Jacobs said preparing for the Eagles’ flexbone is a difficult task.

“It’s tough. You have to play assignment football,” Jacobs said. “No one in our conference runs it anymore, so we haven’t seen it. It’s also hard to replicate it in practice with our scout team, so the pace at which they run it is going to take us a series or two in the game to adjust to it, so what we have got to do a good job of is rallying to the football especially early and try to create a couple of turnovers. That will help us out a little bit.”

Flanagan took over as the Eagles’ starting quarterback after Jake Reidhar got injured.

“He came in Week 7 after Jake Reidhar broke his collarbone,” Des Arc coach B.J. Paschal said. “He’s been our quarterback for the last three weeks, and he’s done a pretty good job so far.”

Paschal said the Eagles’ offense has undergone some changes with Flanagan under center.

“It changed some of the things we do. It helped us in some aspects, in some other aspects, it kind of hurt us a little bit,” Paschal said.

“Cache has done a good job. He’s a sophomore and he’s come in and taken that role and done a very good job so far. It kind of changed up some of what we can do offensively, but in some aspects of the game, it kind of opened up some avenues.”

Those avenues that Paschal referenced are that the Eagles have the option of throwing the ball more if they choose to do so.

“Cache throws the ball a little bit better than Jake did, but he might be a little bit more limited on our option game,” Paschal said. “He’s got a good arm, so it opens up some of the stuff we can do in the passing game more so that what we were able to do prior.”

Dougan will be making his third start for the Trojans since being placed on the varsity squad, and Paschal said it has been more difficult to prepare for the Trojans due to the change at quarterback.

“You want to look at the last two, three weeks now,” Paschal said. “We’ve looked back at what they’ve done all year, but game-plan wise, we’re going to focus on what they’ve done the last two to three weeks.

“We’re going to keep in mind what they’ve done all year as well. Personnel-wise, those last couple of weeks are what we’re looking at.”

Although the Trojans have struggled down the stretch, Jacobs said he is happy with the progress of the freshmen that were moved up.

“They’re continuing to get better. All of them,” Jacobs said. “The guys that we’ve put in there are showing improvement. All eyes are going to be on our quarterback, a young kid, and we’re going to do some things this week to help him out.

“I know it’s tough on him. All people see is how many completions you have and if you win or lose, and that’s not fair for a young quarterback. He’s getting better.

“All of our other freshmen that play are doing well for us. We’ve got a couple more this week that we’re going to try and slip in there and try to get some guys on and off the field so that they’re not having to play both ways as much. We feel if we can do that and those kids can step up to the plate, it gives us a better chance to be successful.”

Given how young the quarterbacks are, both teams will be relying heavily on their skill position players for support.

For the Eagles, that starts with their sturdy ground game with juniors Jack Kearby and Trevion Reed leading the way along with an offensive line dominated by seniors.

“The season has been good,” Paschal said. “Our O-line is a group of seniors, and we try to lean on them. As they go, we typically go. Those guys, we really lean on them and our veteran offensive line.”

Defensively, the Eagles are led by senior linebacker Cooper Childers, senior defensive end Seth Lisko and senior nose guard Dalton Sears.

“They’ll give us a 4-1, something that should suit us for what we’re trying to do,” Jacobs said.

“Their D-line plays extremely well, the linebackers are fast, the secondary is pretty good as well. What we feel we have to do is create a bunch of mismatches and make sure we’re getting our skill kids in the correct positions and getting them the ball.

“We’ve struggled with that the last two weeks, and the scores have showed that. We were able to do that against Junction City and Bearden.

“We were able to put some points on the board, so we’ve got to get back to doing what we were doing when we were playing those teams.”

The Eagles have posted three shutouts this season, but struggled in a 47-0 loss against Clarendon last week.

“Prior to the Clarendon game, we were giving up about eight points a game,” Paschal said. “For the most part, we’ve done pretty good.

“Before the Clarendon game, I think the last touchdown we gave up with our first-string defense was Week 3 against Earle, so for the most part, we’ve been pretty good. We feel like we’re pretty good at stopping the run. Secondary-wise, we’re getting better as the year has gone on.”

The loss to the Lions was one where the Eagles couldn’t get any momentum.

“It was one of those nights where everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Paschal said. “We fumbled the ball two times, and they picked it up and ran it in for touchdowns. I think they recovered three onside kicks. It was one of those things that it just seemed like as things went wrong, they kept piling up on us. It got out of hand pretty quick.”

Now the Eagles are trying to simply forget about last week and focus on the Trojans.

“In this game, you have to have a short memory, good or bad,” Paschal said. “Nothing that you’ve done in the game prior is going to help you beat the next opponent, so you’ve got to put it behind you, good or bad. Obviously this week we’ll be focused on trying to not let Clarendon beat us twice. I feel like our kids will respond well and put this one behind us and get ready for the playoff season.”

Parkers Chapel enters off a 14-6 loss to Hampton that saw the Trojans fail to score on four drives in Hampton territory.

“Very disappointing,” Jacobs said. “I told the kids that it’s my fault for not having them prepared to win the game. The kids played hard and deserved to win it. It was just bad coaching decisions a few times of not putting kids in the right position.

“I thought our defense played well enough to keep us in it. We didn’t really turn the ball over offensively, we just couldn’t finish drives and that’s on me and preparing them Monday through Thursday for those types of situations.”

Like Des Arc, Parkers Chapel is focusing on this week and not dwelling on last week’s loss.

“We met as a team and that’s what we talked about, ‘Seniors, you have one guaranteed game left, and how hard are we willing to prepare today through Thursday to put ourselves in the best chance to be successful Friday night?’” Jacobs said.

“After Friday night, it’s not guaranteed we get to play again, so don’t leave this game with any regrets about I wish I should’ve done it differently is what our message has been.”

Although the Trojans finished the regular season on a down note, Jacobs said his team is excited that the postseason has arrived.

“Without a doubt,” Jacobs said. “We’ve got to go into the game with the mindset of at this time of year, anything can happen. A couple of breaks go our way and we feel we’ve got a chance. Obviously, they’re a good team and we’ve got to play well and we do have to have some breaks fall our way, but we’re going to prepare and expecting to go up there and win. We feel that if our kids expect good things to happen, good things will happen for them.”

For the Eagles to advance, Paschal said his team must be able to run the ball.

“I think just playing our ballgame, trying to control the clock and be able to run the ball efficiently,” Paschal said. “Defensively, we don’t want to give up any big plays. That was one of the things that hurt us against Clarendon was that we gave up too many big plays. They look like a very good football team. They like to spread it out, get into doubles.

“They do some things that could give us difficulty like throwing the ball downfield. Good team. They’re certainly going to be a difficult matchup for us, so we need to limit the big plays, control the clock and be able to run the football.”

Jacobs also believes that limiting the Eagles’ ground game will be crucial.

“We’ve got to limit them to three yards or less per rush,” Jacobs said. “For us, finish drives. Offensively, we need to finish drives.”

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