A few days after his Mustangs handily lost their season opener to Mayflower, Central Arkansas Christian coach Tommy Shoemaker was looking at the big picture.
“I think they’ll bounce back, but we’ve got a lot of young players and a lot of guys who haven’t played very many varsity snaps, and they’re going to make mistakes,” Shoemaker said following the Mustangs’ 50-15 loss last Tuesday at War Memorial Stadium in the Bank of England Kickoff Classic. “Our big emphasis is trying to learn from those mistakes and correct them and try not to make them again.
“I’ve always thought kids are pretty resilient and bounce back fast, and we came back Thursday and had a practice to correct a lot of things. I thought we had a really good day.”
The Mustangs will look to fix those mistakes Friday when Joe T. Robinson visits Mustang Mountain. The Senators are 1-0 after a 40-21 win over Hot Springs Lakeside last week.
Robinson went 11-2 last year, including a 56-21 win over CAC, in reaching the Class 4A state quarterfinals. The Senators’ two losses were to Class 4A powers Nashville and Warren by a combined 10 points.
They were picked to finish third in the 7-4A, according to Hooten’s Arkansas Football’s preseason poll of league coaches.
Five starters return to run Todd Eskola’s Spread offense with six back for the Multiple defensive scheme.
“They lost some good players, but they had some good ones move in,” Shoemaker said. “They’re just as talented as they were last year. They’ve got a lot of ability.
“Our biggest thing is just trying to get better every week. We feel like at the end of the year, we’ll be a lot better football team. So really we’re just trying to build toward conference and trying to get our guys some experience and keep getting better.”
Against Mayflower, the Mustangs saw firepower from the start. After CAC went three-and-out on the opening possession, Todd Langrell’s Eagles scored on their first play from scrimmage — a 50-yard pass from Sean Harris to Turner Hudson. The two-point conversion put CAC into an 8-0 hole with 9:50 left in the opening quarter.
It got worse as Mayflower scored on its next three possessions — 18- and 47-yard runs by Deon Simmons and a 71-yard run by his twin, Keon Simmons, interrupted only by Blake Smith’s 25-yard pass to Eli Jenkins that put the Mustangs on the scoreboard. Mayflower led at the break, 29-7.
Mayflower made it 37-7 on its first drive of the third quarter and 44-7 after a Mustang fumble. The Eagles scored again with 44 seconds left in the period to make it 50-7, but CAC got that one back with Samuel Pitre’s 51-yard run at 1:58 of the fourth.
The Simmons twins combined for 225 yards rushing and four touchdowns for MHS.
“What we worried about the most coming in was their big-play ability with their twins, and that’s what got us,” Shoemaker said. “We’re just not very explosive offensively. It was tough for us to keep up.”
Still, he praised the running of tailback Hugh Miller and the work of Smith at quarterback.
“Blake looked athletic on some of his runs,” Shoemaker said. “It was tough for him because our protection wasn’t great, but he handled everything pretty well.”
Mustangs Jason Edwards and Seth Crews snagged interceptions.
With 10 first-time starters, the Mustangs will be looking to gain experience every week.
“I think we’ll be able to match up with a lot of the teams we play throughout the year,” Shoemaker said. “It’s just going to be how much we can improve.”