El Dorado’s football team is 1-1 on the season with both games decided in the final seconds. The Wildcats had a goal line stand and stopped Camden Fairview on the final play in a season-opening 40-36 road win. Last week, El Dorado’s final pass fell incomplete in a 41-35 loss at Cabot.
The Wildcats host Magnolia Friday in the home opener at Memorial Stadium. If last year’s meeting is an indicator, it could be another down-to-the-wire matchup. The Panthers won 27-23 last season in Magnolia.
Magnolia is 0-3 this season. The Panthers fell to Little Rock Christian 42-27 last week after opening the season with losses to Harrison (26-7) and Crossett (15-3).
“They’ve struggled offensively so far this season. But they have all of their weapons back from last year’s team,” said El Dorado coach Steven Jones. “They like to run the football. They run the triple option. You have to be very disciplined against that with your eyes on defense. They have a lot of team speed on the defensive side of the ball. Their secondary can really run and their linebackers move well. They have some athletic guys playing (defensive) line. They’re 0-3 but in my opinion from watching film, they’ve improved each week.”
Last week was, by far, Magnolia’s most productive offensive game.
“Little Rock Christian had a little trouble stopping Magnolia defensively. I thought their speed got the best of them and Magnolia got the ball into the end zone and got the ball out on the edge,” said Jones, who said the Panthers have shown steady improvement.
“They cut their turnovers down a little bit. They were struggling with ball security early in the first couple of games. Things seemed to look cleaner for them last week. It’s just a matter of time. They have some good players. They’ll get it together and get it back rolling. They just started out the season struggling a little bit offensively.”
The Panthers’ flexbone features Garrion Curry and Kendrick Carey at the running backs with Deray Williams (6-1, 225) at fullback and Dalen Blanchard at quarterback. The offensive line averages 247.6 pounds from tackle-to-tackle.
Defensively, Magnolia’s base alignment has been a 3-3-5.
The first key for El Dorado is to, defensively, stop the Panthers’ rushing attack.
“Defensively, just being disciplined with our eyes and understanding assignments, Also, Magnolia is really good at getting yards after contact. We’ve got to do a good job of tackling. We have to continue to get better in that area each week,” said Jones. “Offensively, the key is just to take care of the football and not try to do too much and take what the defense gives us.”
One area El Dorado hopes to improve will be penalties. After getting flagged 23 times at Fairview, The Wildcats were penalized 12 times for 117 yards last week.
“It’s just getting our players to understand that a penalty after the whistle is selfish. Our kids know that. They understand it costs the rest of the team,” said Jones. “I think throughout practice just encouraging the guys to have some self discipline and them understanding you can really hurt the team or hurt the outcome of the game if you don’t stay within yourself.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve had a big issue with excessive penalties. We’ve just had a couple heat of the moment plays. We’ve talked to our team about that. We’ll get it cleaned up.”
El Dorado will celebrate Memorial Stadium’s 75th year of hosting Wildcats’ football. It’s also a game against a South Arkansas rival and the home opener.
“It’s a fun environment to play in a local game. I know we’ll have a big crowd. We’re excited it’s at home this year. After two emotional games down to the wire, we’re eager to get back out and play again and do our best,” Jones said.
“We’d like to play in front of our home crowd. Our fans are really supportive. They see our team improving. We had a lot of compliments from last week as far as how much effort our kids played with. I’m glad to be at home to get to show out in front of our fans.”