Football: Mustangs regroup, look ahead to Heber Springs

After a 60-16 loss at Mills University Studies last week, Central Arkansas Christian is looking ahead instead of back.

“You just put it behind you and you move on,” said Tommy Shoemaker, in his 14th season atop Mustang Mountain. “I don’t think there’s really any other way to do it.”

The Mustangs find themselves in a similar situation to the Arkansas Razorbacks this week after the Hogs were manhandled at Georgia on Saturday.

“It’s funny because I heard several instances of different games like that,” Shoemaker said early in the week. “(Former Arkansas and Ole Miss coach) Houston Nutt has had it happen before, and he said there’s nothing you can get out of looking back. You must move on and get ready for the next week. That was the approach we took.”

The Mustangs (2-3 overall, 0-2 in 2-4A play) will put that theory to the test Friday at Heber Springs (1-3-1, 0-2). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Panthers are 1-3-1 overall and also 0-2 in conference play. They’ve beaten Dover, 44-0; lost a non-conference match to Harding Academy, 42-7; tied Newport, 0-0; and fell behind in conference play with losses to Lonoke and Stuttgart, 36-14 and 42-0, respectively.

Friday’s contest will break a three-way tie (with Bald Knob) for sixth in the league.

The Panthers finished 2-9 last year in Todd Wood’s first season atop the program. He came to Cleburne County from Russellville, where he’d been defensive coordinator, following a long stint as an assistant under Kevin Kelly at Pulaski Academy.

“He’s run those schemes,” Shoemaker said of the Panthers’ Spread offense. “He runs PA’s offense. I see a lot of similar things. They are very wide open. They don’t onside kick all the time; they don’t go for it on fourth down every time, so it’s not a complete sellout, but a lot of the offensive schemes are the same.”

Seven starters returned this fall on offense with six back for the Panthers’ 3-4 defensive schemed. According to Hooten’s Arkansas Football’s preseason poll of league coaches, Heber Springs was picked to finish eighth in the 2-4A.

That wide-open offense will present a new challenge for the Mustangs.

“Every team we’ve played has been pretty much a running team,” Shoemaker said of previous games against Riverview, Carlisle, Mayflower, Clinton and Mills. “I think (Heber Springs) still runs the ball quite a bit. They’re probably more balanced than some of the teams we’ve played. They try to keep a good mixture.”

The Mustangs and Panthers are similar in a number of ways. Numbers are down for both this fall. Shoemaker said his junior and senior classes are smaller than usual. Injuries have trimmed their overall numbers to the low 20s.

“They’ve had some struggles early just like we’ve had,” he said. “It will probably be a pretty good matchup. It’ll be tough. They always play well against us.”

He said the Mustangs ran the ball well against Mills last week, but turnovers hurt.

“We’re going to have to run the football to be able to win Friday,” the coach said. “We can’t turn the ball over. We just can’t give up big plays on defense. We’ve got to tackle better.

“We’re working hard on it. I hope we’ll see some improvement in that area Friday night.” 

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  • Sept. 3: Riverview 41, Central Arkansas Christian 7

  • Sept. 10: Central Arkansas Christian 55, Carlisle 46

  • Sept. 17: Central Arkansas Christian 35, Mayflower 34

  • Sept. 24: Clinton 50, Central Arkansas Christian 20

  • Oct. 1: Little Rock Mills 60, Central Arkansas Christian 16

  • Friday, Oct. 8: Central Arkansas Christian at Heber Springs

  • Friday, Oct. 15: Southside Batesville at Central Arkansas Christian

  • Friday, Oct. 22: Central Arkansas Christian at Lonoke

  • Friday, Oct. 29: Bald Knob at Central Arkansas Christian

  • Friday, Nov. 5: Central Arkansas Christian at Stuttgart

    All games kickoff at 7 p.m. unless noted

4A-2 standings

School … Conf. … Overall
Little Rock Mills ... 2-0 ... 5-0
Lonoke ... 2-0 ... 5-0
Stuttgart ... 2-0 ... 4-2
Southside Batesville ... 1-1 ... 3-2
Clinton ... 1-1 ... 2-3
Central Arkansas Christian ... 0-2 ... 2-3
Heber Springs ... 0-2 ... 1-3
Bald Knob ... 0-2 ... 0-5

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