MAYFLOWER --— Mayflower will have its chance to silence the doubters when the Eagles take on Harding Academy in prime time tonight.
For the past three seasons, the 2-3A Conference champion has come from this game, and it appears that’ll be the case when the two teams collide for their Week 7 bout at Patrick Stadium. This year’s contest is being telecast live throughout the state by KARZ (Conway Corp. channel 9).
The Eagles (3-3, 3-0) were left out of the postseason, according to many of the state media outlets and preseason publications. However, Mayflower has overcome the loss of 22 seniors in the early portion of its conference schedule, and many other players have stepped into roles. The Eagles are going to have another chance to leapfrog other teams in the Class 3A polls and control their destiny in the quest for a conference title.
"We’re excited about being in this position, especially with how young we are," Mayflower coach Jed Davis said. "We love when people pick against us because that puts all the pressure on the other team. I understand because we lost a lot of players and we have a young team. I told these guys back in January that this game between Harding Academy will come down to a conference championship."
Harding Academy comes into the matchup with a 6-0 overall record, with three victories coming in conference play. The Wildcats’ disposed of what was speculated to be their toughest opponent of the year in Barton, 47-20 over Barton last week.
"One of the things that we noticed on film was that they were not the most athletic team or one of the biggest teams in the state, but they make very few mistakes," Davis said. "We know that it’s going to come down to who make the fewest mistakes and who holds onto the ball."
One of Mayflower’s biggest tests may be finding a way slow down the Wildcats’ dual threat quarterback Seth Keese. Ben Lecrone is the Wildcats’ leading rusher. Keese’s biggest targets on the edges are receivers Tyler Gentry and James Dillard.
"Their quarterback reminds me a lot like Greenbrier’s quarterback (Neal Burcham). If you give him time then he’ll pick you apart," Davis said. "This is not the old Harding Academy team where they’ll pass 40 times a game. Now, they like to run it first then pass second."
Davis said his team is going into the game with two different game plans, one to sell out and stop the run. The other plan is to sell out to stop the pass.
"We know that this is going to be a tough game," Davis said. "If we win the game, then we know we still have some tough games left in conference and in the playoffs. If we lose, then it’s not the end of the season. This game won’t make or break our season by any stretch of the imagination."
Mayflower has had a capacity crowd at each home game this season. The Eagles’ lone loss at Patrick Stadium came from Greenbrier.
"We love playing at home," Davis said. "We have great fans and we enjoy playing at Patrick Stadium always. It’s getting football weather too with it being cold and getting dark fast."
Mayflower’s Demetris Lasker pulled his groin last week in the Eagles’ win over Rose Bud, which kept him out of the second half.
According to Davis, Lasker is about 70-75 percent, but he’s not expected to play. If he does play, he’ll be used only on defense.
"We’re all right on injuries, but some of our players were hit with the flu-bug," Davis said. "Jordan Dycus and Marquis Williams missed a practice this week, and they’re big players on our team."
Davis called this short week of practice a "weird week."
All of the rainfall has prevented the Eagles from getting in a full day’s worth of practice. Davis said the practice and game fields were under water on Tuesday. The Eagles scheduled an hour practice in the University of Central Arkansas’ indoor practice facility on Wednesday.