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El Dorado to start 2021 season Thursday against Camden Fairview

by Tony Burns | September 1, 2021 at 9:15 p.m.

El Dorado vs. Camden Fairview - a game so big, they moved it up to Thursday. The Wildcats will open their season tonight at their Ouachita County rival. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Cardinals won their season opener last week, 41-21, over Arkadelphia.

El Dorado coach Steven Jones doesn’t believe Fairview will have an advantage after getting the opening-game miscues out of the way. The Wildcats will get a push from that first-game enthusiasm.

“I think our kids are ready for the first real game. I feel confident our guys are ready to play. We’re excited to kick off and get it going,” said Jones.

“It’s a big deal for both communities. It’s a game that means a lot to our school. We’re going to go out there and compete. It’ll be an exciting game with a big crowd. What better way to kick off a new season than El Dorado-Camden Fairview?”

The Cardinals will bring plenty weapons to the fight, including quarterback Martavius Thomas, who completed 9-16 passes for 164 yards and rushed for 84 last week. Brandon Copeland had seven receptions for 139 yards and two kickoff returns for 84 and hard-running JaToney McGehee averaged 7.5 yards per carry, totaling 127 on the ground.

“They are very multiple offensively, will go to some four wide sets, take one of those receivers out and bring a fullback in and go, what we call 20 personnel with a fullback, running back and three wide. They run some gap runs and zone runs. We’ll have to be ready for those,” said Jones. “Their fullback does a good job on gap runs. They run some outside run plays where they stretch the field. We’ll have to do a good job of running and tackling in space. The quarterback reads a lot of it and pulls it, on zone, reads the defensive end. We’ll have to have somebody accounting for him. The receivers outside can make some plays. We’ll have to do a good job in coverage. Overall, I think Camden is one of the better teams in Class 5A. I know they’re a preseason top-5 in the Democrat-Gazette. I think they have a really good football team.”

Jones couldn’t offer a run-pass ratio for the Cardinals.

“They did a good job of mixing it against Arkadelphia,” he said. “They’re a lot like we are. They’re going to take what the defense gives them and try to make plays.”

Thomas brings a dual threat to the offense at quarterback. Jones said the Wildcats must keep him contained.

“He’s very dynamic. He’s a threat when he pulls the ball on those zone read plays but also in the drop-back pass game, he’s able to scramble and make plays,” he said. “One play that stuck out, second-and-26, he scrambles for a 20-yard run and they end up with third-and-6. Things like that, he’s a dynamic playmaker. I think he throws a good ball. They were able to complete some vertical balls on Arkadelphia. We have to do a good job of being disciplined with our eyes.

“They’re well coached on both sides of the ball. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. Especially on defense, they line up very sound and they attack. They’re a physical team and very aggressive.”

Defensively, El Dorado will focus on stopping Fairview’s rushing attack first.

“North Little Rock was able to establish the line of scrimmage more than we would like and run the football. I feel like throughout this week our defense has done a good job of getting that corrected,” Jones said. “We’re going to be able to keep everything contained, squeeze it down and make tackles.”

Defensively, the Cardinals base out of a 4-3 alignment. Athletic in the secondary, sophomore cornerback Jabauree Lockhart turned last week’s game around, taking the ball away from the quarterback on a blitz and returning it 77 yards for the touchdown.

“Camden is an athletic team as well. In the defensive backfield, they have some speed. They’ll mix and match coverages, play some press and some off, some zone coverages,” said Jones. “They’ve got some guys who can really break on the ball. Number 24, their safety, flies around and makes a lot of plays. And then their Sam linebacker, number nine, both of those guys rotate at running back, but he does a good job playing out in space and helping out in the run game.”

For El Dorado, moving the ball on the ground will be the first priority.

“We have to be able to run the ball between the tackles so we can get them to overload the box and get the ball in space,” said Jones.

“They have two very good (offensive) tackles. I think they both have Division I offers. Both of those guys rotate on defense. Size-wise, they’re big and physical. Their defensive ends are athletic. I think they do a good job of playing very sound and not trying to do too much.”

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