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El Dorado ready for league opener at Jonesboro

by Tony Burns | September 23, 2021 at 9:15 p.m.

El Dorado answered a lot of questions after going 2-1 during the non-conference schedule. There are still a couple left to be answered as the Wildcats open conference play Friday at Jonesboro.

El Dorado’s offense has been explosive but the Wildcats surrendered yards in chunks to Magnolia’s fullback and a flexbone attack last week.

“What was the most difficult thing, right now our depth at outside linebacker, because we were basically without an outside linebacker for four quarters, we had to adjust our front to something we aren’t accustomed to doing,” said El Dorado coach Steven Jones. “We played our base defense in the second half against Magnolia and I thought, especially toward the end of the game, we were able to do a little bit better.

“But, sure, the triple option is tough to prepare for. But we were having to do some extreme personnel swaps the last two games just to get by.”

Jonesboro (1-2) has not shown any triple-option this season. But the Golden Hurricane’s offense presents problems both on the ground and through the air.

“They are a multiple team. They run some fullback-oriented stuff with three wides, fullback, running back. They’ll get into some true spread with four wide and a tailback. They run some gap-scheme runs, some zone-scheme runs,” Jones said. “They’re pretty good in the screen game. They’ve had some big gains with screens. They have a vertical threat outside at receiver.

“Their quarterback is a 6-4 guy who can sling it. He’s been pretty efficient so far.”

Defensively, Jonesboro has also varied its looks but could base out of a 3-4 alignment.

“They are multiple defensively. I feel like against teams that try to run the football, they want to play a four-down front. And then against spread and more of second and third and long situations, they’ll be in an odd front with a base 3-4. They’re very multiple,” said Jones. “They like to send different twists with their defensive line, blitz linebackers. They’re pretty athletic up front. On the back end, they mix a lot of different coverages. They try to show one thing and roll to another or just vary what they’re doing back there and not just have the same thing going.

“Individually, their (defensive) line is pretty explosive. They’ve got some strengths there. They remind me a lot of Camden Fairview’s (defensive) line. They have speed at linebacker. (Taurus) Crawford, can fly. He makes a lot of plays. Andre Reed is a very physical outside linebacker, does a good job setting the edge. Their corners, Jessie Washington, is a speed guy. (Brett Long) does a good job keeping everything in front and their safeties have shown they’ll be aggressive in the run game and also make plays on the back end.”

Jonesboro beat Little Rock Catholic (37-7) and lost to Cabot (42-27) and Conway (42-25).

“They’ve played some good teams. They’re 1-2 but just looking at their film, they’ve been in every game,” said Jones. “They got beat by 20 by Cabot but I was at that game. They were right there in the fourth quarter and Cabot pulled away late.

“They’ve played three pretty good teams, all 7A non-conference games. They do things right. They’re very well coached. They seem to not make a ton of mistakes offensively. They don’t do anything flashy. They run the football pretty well, do some play action and the quarterback can, pretty much, make every throw that I’ve seen so far.”

Jones said the Wildcats’ non-conference schedule should have them prepared for whatever they see on the field.

“Jonesboro, schematically, they’re a lot like Cabot on offense. They do a lot of what Camden did defensively. I guess that helps us because we’ve seen an opponent do what we’re going to see Friday,” said Jones, who said kicking game will be important.

“Special teams is going to be big, as always. We’re continuing to improve in that department but I want to see us be more efficient there. And then, just making plays.”

As far as the conference opener, no matter what happened in the non-conference schedule, every coach preaches all teams enter league play with a record of 0-0. El Dorado’s second season kicks off Friday and it’s the most important season so far.

“It’s really important with a big game this early. You don’t want to have a slow start in conference especially when the team you’re playing, a lot are picking this to be who can come out on top in the conference,” said Jones. “Obviously, we want to come out and have a great game. I think we have a good game plan. Our kids are excited to play. We’ve got some momentum.”

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