After three games and a bye week to get ready, conference play has officially arrived for Smackover.
The Bucks hit the road for a key 6-3 clash at Lake Village tonight hoping to build on a good start in their non-conference slate.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. from Lake Village.
The Bucks (2-1) sandwiched wins over Parkers Chapel and Hampton with a loss at Junction City.
The Beavers (0-3) went winless in their trio of non-conference games, falling to Monticello, Dumas and Junction City.
Smackover has won five of the seven meetings between the schools, but the Beavers won last year’s meeting 24-8 on the road.
“They are big and fast,” said Smackover coach David Osborn. “They are very straight forward in their approach on offense and like to cause confusion on defense. They are going to come straight at you and try to get the ball in the hands of their athletes. We have to make them drive the field on offense and defensively we need to find mismatches and take advantage of them.”
The Bucks’ defense will have to contend with Lake Village’s Dead-T, an offense that Osborn said isn’t seen very often.
“You don’t see it a whole lot with the move toward spread offense today,” Osborn said. “On defense, you have to play fundamentally sound in your scheme and try to not get overloaded in any areas. With the extra blockers in the backfield, it’s similar to going against a wishbone attack.
“We will need to be aggressive on defense and try to cause confusion with some different looks. Their offensive line is huge with multiple guys over 300 pounds on the front and if they get their hands on you, they do a good job of tying you up.”
When the Bucks have the ball, Osborn said they will be seeing a variety of looks from the Beavers.
“It’s a very multiple defense,” Osborn said. “It is based out of a 3-4 look, but they move guys around and have people in different places on almost every play. On any given play, you could see a three-front, four-front, five-front and sometimes nine guys in the box. We will need to follow our blocking rules and scheme. We can’t go chasing people, we will need to stay on our tracks.”
And while all conference games are big, the Bucks face two of the top teams in the conference in Harmony Grove and Rison following tonight’s clash at Lake Village, so getting off to a good start will be critical for Smackover’s postseason hopes.
“All conference games are huge,” Osborn said. “Especially this year when at any time someone may have to forfeit a game due to COVID. That could change everything in the standings in just one week.
“We are going to take it a game at a time and not worry about anyone down the road. In our conference, every game is a big game and Lake Village will give us a big test. Lake Village is a solid team that has had some ups and downs, but they have the athletes to beat anyone on any night.”
Both teams enter off a bye week, and Osborn said the time off helped get the Bucks healthy.
“It was a good week for us to try to get healthy,” Osborn said. “We spent the past week really trying to reign our offense. We went back and looked at some areas that we felt like we needed to address on both sides of the ball from the last couple of games. We have been working hard on the fronts. We have spent a lot of time under the shoots and pushing our sleds.”
The Bucks finished non-conference play with a 28-20 win at Hampton with D’Kylan Hildreth catching three passes for 149 yards with two touchdowns.
“He had a big night for us. He showed how he can change a game at any time,” Osborn said of Hildreth. “The biggest thing we took from the game was the excitement and attitude our kids started playing with. Early in the third quarter, it was like a switch flipped and we started playing. It may have been after the third called-back touchdown, but something just switched in our players and fans and the environment changed. It was a great high school football atmosphere during the second half with Hampton. We have told the kids as we get into conference season, we can’t wait for that moment. We have to come out playing from the start.”
If the Bucks are to start conference play with a win on the road, Osborn said the Bucks cannot hurt themselves with miscues.
“Limit mistakes and limit penalties,” Osborn said. “We must contain their big plays and make them drive down the field. For us, the key will be to win up front. We need a good performance from our guys up front on both sides of the ball. If we do those things, we will have a good chance on Friday.”