Central Arkansas Christian’s football Mustangs face their second trip in as many weeks to one of the top teams in Class 4A when they travel to Arkadelphia on Friday.
After last week’s 43-12 loss at Nashville, Tommy Shoemaker’s Mustangs are 3-2 overall, 1-1 in the 7-4A. Arkadelphia (5-0, 2-0) is top-ranked in Class 4A by one statewide newspaper.
"With their senior class, people have been expecting them to do really good things since they were sophomores," Shoemaker said, referring to the Badgers, who won the Class 4A state baseball title in May — the first major team championship since the legendary Johnny Outlaw brought two football state championships to the Clark County school, in 1979 and ’87.
"They’re very talented, and their quarterback and running back are exceptional, and they have a very good defensive line," Shoemaker said. "They’re a really solid football team, top to bottom. It’ll be a big challenge going to their place."
The Badgers beat Arkansas Baptist last week, 56-12. CAC defeated Arkansas Baptist two weeks ago, 43-32. Arkadelphia bettered Nashville in their conference opener.
But the Mustangs were the only team to knock off the Badgers during the regular season last year, winning 7-0 at Mustang Mountain. Arkadelphia finished 9-2, tied with Nashville for the conference championship, and fell to Mena in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs. The Badgers averaged 414 yards and 35 points per game. From that team, they returned eight starters for the Spread offense and four for the 4-3 defense this season.
"I guess the last three times we’ve played them — and we’ve only played three times as far as I know — it’s come down to a touchdown or less with the game on the line in the last minute," Shoemaker said. "We beat them twice at home and they beat us there. We had to have a goal-line stand last year at the end to win."
Arkadelphia senior quarterback Jakahari Howell, who broke his ankle at CAC last year, threw for five touchdowns against Baptist last week. The Badger defense allowed the Eagles just five yards of rushing, recovered a fumble and snagged two interceptions.
"It’s been a pretty tight series," Shoemaker said. "We responded well last year after losing to Nashville, so maybe we’ll play a little better.
"I don’t know if we could play any worse. That’s not a concern. I just want us to go out and give ourselves a chance, and we didn’t do that last week."
The Scrappers built a 43-6 lead. The Mustangs scored on a pair of long plays, a 51-yard pass from Jack Thomas to Stephan Flanigan and a 73-yard run by Kyler Simmons.
Nashville’s LaMichael Pettway, who has drawn interest from Nebraska, caught three touchdown passes from Lucas Liggin, who was 13-of-25 for 194 yards. Pettway caught six passes for 108 yards and touchdowns of 13, 36 and 34 yards.
"They’re good, more talented than we are, but I was just disappointed in our level of play," Shoemaker said. "I thought we’d play a lot better than we did. We didn’t make a lot of plays and they made a lot of plays. We certainly didn’t make it easy on ourselves."
He said for some reason, his team was out of synch and inflicted most of the wounds on itself early.
"We had several opportunities where we had third-and-15 and would have a penalty or busted coverage or something that would allow them to keep moving the football," Shoemaker said. "Basically, all the things you have to do to win the game, we didn’t do — especially against a very good opponent."
They’ll get a chance to redeem themselves this week.