Central Arkansas Christian dropped to 0-7 overall and 0-4 in 2-4A play last week after its 42-0 loss to league-leading Southside Batesville.
But Tommy Shoemaker said Monday his team continued to improve, and the Mustangs will go for their first win Friday at Lonoke.
“They’ve had their struggles like we have,” Shoemaker said of the Jackrabbits (2-5, 1-3). “They are very athletically talented, and at times, a lot like us, they look like they want to look, but sometimes they’re inconsistent. Coming into the game, I’m sure not making mistakes and not turning the ball over, not missing assignments and giving up big plays, will be a large part of who ends up winning the game.
“But we’re getting there. Our kids are still working hard. We had a really good practice today. Our seniors are doing a really good job of coming out and making sure we’re practicing well. I’ve been really proud of them.
“It’s not easy when you’re not getting the wins on the field. But we’re getting better, so that’s what we’re going to try to get them to take away.”
The Jackrabbits are in their first full season under Taggart Moore, who led them to a 1-5 mark after taking over as interim coach last year.
The two teams are a combined 0-6 against three common opponents this fall. Southside Batesville beat the Jackrabbits, 28-14. Heber Springs beat Lonoke, 41-22; and CAC, 31-28. Helena-West Helena beat Lonoke, 6-0; and CAC, 50-13.
The Jackrabbits were 2-8 last season en route to a seventh-place finish in the 2-4A. Seven starters returned for the Multiple offense with five back for the 3-4 defense in 2017.
CAC won last year, 35-7.
Last week, the Mustangs fell behind Southside Batesville at halftime, 28-0, necessitating the use of a limited Spread package out of their base Wing T with sophomore Eli Garrison at quarterback and junior Blake Smith moving from QB to running back.
“We were splitting time and trying to use both of them a little bit,” Shoemaker said. “Blake has done a nice job running the ball for us. Once we got behind, we ended up in our Spread package, and Eli was pretty much it.”
Garrison completed 17 of 32 passes for 146 yards.
“He did a good job of throwing the ball, especially when we hadn’t really planned on that being as big a part of what we wanted to do,” Shoemaker said.
He also praised the play of receivers Garrett Overstreet, Krishaun Watson and Seth Crews.
The Southerners are off to the best start since their program started in 2006. It was their first win over the Mustangs.
“They’re good,” Shoemaker said. “They did a nice job and were well prepared. I think they’re basically in the driver’s seat. It’ll be a matter of whether they can stay focused and finish.”
Southside is the only unbeaten team in the league at 7-0 and 4-0. Stuttgart (4-3), Helena-West Helena Central (6-1) and Heber Springs (4-3) are tied for second in the conference standings at 3-1. Riverview is 5-2 and 2-2 for fifth. Lonoke is sixth at 2-5 and 1-3. CAC and Baptist Prep are tied for seventh at 0-7 and 0-4.
The top five teams will advance to the Class 4A state playoffs.