A win last week put the Conway back in the running for a playoff berth, but Wampus Cat coach Clint Ashcraft knows there’s more work to do before any postseason hopes become a reality.
"It was a huge win," Ashcraft said of the Cats’ 31-0 victory at Little Rock Central last Friday. "It put us back in the middle of the playoff race, and it picked our kids’ heads up."
Still, that’s just a portion of what Conway (2-4, 1-2) needs to extend its season. Tonight’s matchup with Bryant (5=1, 2-1) will be another and is something Ashcraft hopes can continue adding momentum heading into the home stretch.
"It’s a huge game for us because we need to build off last week’s win," Ashcraft said. "If we’re going to get on a roll, it’s got to start (tonight.)"
The Hornets are coming off their first setback of the season — a 14-3 loss to Russellville last week — after winning five straight games. A lot of their success comes from the rushing of Chris Rycraw, who gained 109 yards and 32 carries against the Cyclones. The senior running back now has 842 yards on the season, but he’s not all the Conway defense will have to be focused on.
"They’ve got a really good running back and some good receivers," Ashcraft said of the Hornets. "They can run and throw. We’re going to have to be able to defend both the run and pass."
That wasn’t much of a problem last week against the winless Tigers. Conway held Central to under 150 yards of offense in its second shutout victory of the season.
Part of that came as a result of the Cats executing well offensively, therefore limiting the Tigers’ opportunities.
"I think our kids were focused and mentally ready," Ashcraft said. "I just want to see that continue."
It also doesn’t hurt to give the defense a little something new.
There’s no doubt been plenty of changes and new systems and such to these Cats. That takes time, but that eventually begins to pay off.
"We’re still adding stuff scheme-wise on both sides of the ball," Ashcraft said. "We’re able to do that because kids are starting to grasp the other things we’ve been doing. ... It’s just to your benefit when you can show your opponent something they haven’t had the opportunity to see."
Conway hasn’t had the opportunity to see receiver Jalen Jones this season. Jones has missed the first six games of the season with a foot injury. This week marked the first time Jones had full week’s worth of practice.
"How much he plays depends on his conditioning," Ashcraft said. "We’re slowly working in back into the rotation."
But having Jones available is a plus after starting wideout Jaalan Windom suffered a shoulder injury last week and will most likely miss at least a couple of weeks. But the play of Tristan Eddings could bring the CHS coach some encouragement. Eddings had six catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns against Central.
Having more players step up is something Ashcraft hopes to see more of. But a big cure for dealing with mistakes and injuries is winning.
"When you win, it fixes a lot of things," Ashcraft said. "Everybody feels better and has more confidence. All the guys start trusting each other more."
Ben Tusson missed last week’s game with a broken finger. He’ll also be out tonight.
Whoever is on the field, each game on the remainder of the schedule has its importance.
"We’ve got to take care of business one week at a time," Ashcraft said. "They’re all important from here on out."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at John McConnell Stadium.