Central Arkansas Christian’s football team has a lot riding on the Mustangs’ trip to Pulaski Robinson on Friday.
"We’re playing them for fifth, essentially," Mustang coach Tommy Shoemaker said, referring to the final playoff berth from the 7-4A. "I guess if we win out, we could still finish fourth, but it just depends on how it all pans out."
CAC will end the regular season next week when Ashdown travels to Mustang Mountain. Some combination of Arkadelphia, Nashville, Malvern and Ashdown is likely already a cinch to move on to the postseason.
The Mustangs are 4-4 overall (2-3 in the 7-4A) after last week’s 50-34 loss to Malvern, which has played neither Arkadelphia nor Nashville. The Senators are also 4-4 overall but just 1-4 in conference play, having survived a shootout with Bauxite.
Robinson is just off a 55-28 loss to Nashville, a team that survived CAC, 43-12.
Robinson was picked last in the 7-4A by league coaches in the preseason, according to Hooten’s Arkansas Football. The Senators, who finished 2-8 last year, including a 52-21 loss to the Mustangs, returned nine starters on each side of the football from that team. They run multiple schemes on each side.
"I think it’ll be a good matchup," Shoemaker said. "They’re vastly improved over last year. They’ve just got some better players, and they’re athletic, and they do a really good job on offense and have moved the ball and scored a lot of points. Who knows — it may be another shootout."
He said his team had to do a better job on defense slowing people down.
"They’re athletic, but they’re not quite as athletic as (Malvern), but not many teams are," Shoemaker said of the Senators. "But they have good size and some good athletes at the skill positions. They do a nice job, coaching-wise. I expect it to be a great ball game."
Robinson won four games in 2011, but the Senators are just three years out from an 11-win, playoff run in 2010.
Against Malvern last week, CAC led by 7-3 after one quarter, but the Leopards rallied in the second to build a 23-22 edge at the break. They extended it by two more touchdowns in the third quarter.
CAC’s Jack Thomas threw for four touchdowns, including a pair to Stephen Flanigan. But Malvern did major damage with the running of junior Montae Hernandez, who ran for earned 215 yards and two TDs on the ground. He also caught a scoring pass. Sophomore quarterback Trace Collie threw for three scores.
"They are really big and physical and athletic," Shoemaker said of the Leopards. "They figured out how much bigger and stronger up front they were at halftime, and they’ve got a big, strong back. We couldn’t slow them down, couldn’t get a stop in the second half. That was our undoing."