The tough times continued for Central Arkansas Christian’s football team with last week’s 41-9 loss to Riverview.

But numbers are telling. The Mustangs (0-4, 0-1 in 2-4A conference play) have lost to opponents with a combined record of 16-0.

And it doesn’t get any easier this week. CAC travels to Helena-West Helena Central, which is 4-0 and 1-0 by a combined score of 178-45.

The Cougars have beaten Earle, 22-14; Marianna Lee, 62-12; Forrest City, 46-16; and Baptist Prep, 48-3. Average score of 46-11.

“We’ve played some really really good competition,” CAC defensive coordinator Hayden Cruce said. “I was telling our guys the other day — we’ve improved so much from the beginning of the year to where we’re at now, just getting experience, letting them get that game experience.

“We like where we’re going. We’ve had some young guys who’ve really stepped up and played well, and we’ve had some great senior leadership. I feel like we’re going to break through.”

The Cougars were 5-6 last year, fifth in the conference. They lost in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Dardanelle, 45-23.

Helena-West Helena started 5-2 last year but lost its final four games. The Cougars were picked to finish fifth again in 2017, according to Hooten’s Arkansas football’s preseason poll of league coaches.

Five starters return to run the Cougars’ Spread offense, with six back for their 3-2 defensive scheme.

Senior running back Terrance Calhoun rushed for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. He had two rushing touchdowns last week against Baptist Prep as the Cougars built a 48-0 lead with 3:25 left in the first half. Junior Armonie Calhoun moved to quarterback from receiver last year.

CAC won this game last year, 35-26.

Keys for the Mustangs?

“Defensively, we have to tackle really well in space and not let their athletes make big plays on us,” Cruce said. “We’ve got to make them drive the football, match their physicality up front on both sides of the ball. Offensively and defensively, they’re very physical up front.

“Offensively, we just need to continue to execute our offense. We are absolutely seeing progress. Our offensive line is doing a really good job and continuing to progress. We can’t turn the ball over.

“If we control those things, we feel like we’re going to be in the ball game and have a chance to win.”

After CAC’s fourth game against Riverview, Cruce said the Raiders were “by far the best” Riverview team the Mustangs had seen.

“They’re having a great season,” he said. “They’re doing a lot of good things on offense. They have two really outstanding athletes, and they do a great job of getting the ball in their hands and letting them make plays.”

But there were some highlights for the Mustangs. Cruce said sophomore Eli Jenkins had his best game at safety. Junior Hugh Miller “had an outstanding game for us at running back,” the coach said.

“Senior Blake Fairchild continues to lead our defense at linebacker,” Cruce said. “Those guys are doing a great job, and there were other guys who had their best game of the year. We’ve just got to continue to progress.”

Mustang head coach Tommy Shoemaker was out of town following his mother’s death in Alabama on Friday.