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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Charleston Hosts Booneville in Conference Showdown for Conference Lead


What a difference a week can make. A week ago today, we were talking about Charleston coming off an emotional loss and having to regroup mentally. A week later, all is good with the world again, and the Tigers find themselves looking at a game this Friday that can not only put them in a tie for first place, but would give them a tie breaker advantage over Booneville for a top seed in the state playoffs.

The Tigers showed what they are made of last week when they traveled to Paris and defeated an up and coming, talented, Paris football team. Charleston had over 400 yards of total offense in the game and gave up less than 150 yards on defense. In the end, the Tigers won going away with a strong running game and ball control offense. When the Tigers got on the bus to return home, they only had one player who sustained a minor injury, but not enough to be overly concerned. He should be ready to play on Friday. In fact, the Tigers hope to get yet another player back for the Booneville game, as well.

Last week at Paris, the Tigers completed 18 of 25 attempts passing for 153 yards. Quarterback Brayden Ross averaged 8.5 yards per completion for a passing completion percentage of 72%. Charleston ran for 265 yards on 47 carries. They averaged 5.6 yards per carry, and had a longest run of 19 yards. The Tigers rushed for four touchdowns.

On defense, the Tigers sacked Paris five times for a total loss of 39 yards. They pressured the Eagles quarterback for four hurries throughout the game. The pressure created three interceptions that were key to the Tigers victory. In addition to the three interceptions, Charleston capitalized on three fumble recoveries, two of which were forced by the defense. The Tigers gained 35 yards on the fumble recoveries.

Charleston will need to be as effective on offense and defense against the defending Class 3A Booneville Bearcats. The Bearcats are coming off a big road victory over Mansfield in which its running game dominated Mansfield, and Booneville passed the football just one time.

Coach Ricky May commented on his team’s performance against Paris. “We gave up 29 yards rushing, and we gave up around 147 total yards. So that was good. Offensively, we played well. I think we had over 400 yards of offense, Breckon Ketter rushed well, and we had several other guys that had significant carries. So we felt good about that part of it coming out of the game. It was kind of an emphasis last spring to be able to run the ball.”

On the importance of this game to the playoff picture, Coach May said, “Definitely the winner of this one will be in the driver’s seat. But Booneville still has to play Lamar, and we still have to play Lamar. So, it would definitely put the winner in the driver’s seat.”

Booneville is the defending state champions and returns a team that lost some key players to graduation. Graduation has affected the Bearcats depth this year, but nevertheless, Booneville is a very good team who will be a tough out in the state playoffs.

When asked about his team’s mental state following the road win at Paris, May responded, “It’s really good. We struggled in the first half a little bit, and there again, we didn’t start real fast, we’ve got to start this one a little faster, and get after it. I think as far as their mental state though, these kids don’t change much. They don’t get up or down as much, they’re just pretty steady.”

Coach May talked about several Booneville players that stand out to him as the Tigers prepare for the Bearcats. “Andrew Robertson, their senior running back, he’s rushed for around 500 yards, and he’s just a lightning bolt. He plays hard. And then their fullback (Cam Brasher) is a senior, and he is the bull of the ring, plays hard, plays a good linebacker position too. He’s a good one. Then they have a little sophomore, Randon Ray, he’s almost a carbon copy of Andrew (Robertson). They’re both smaller kids but man they play like they’re 180 (lbs.) I think he has over 500 or 600 yards rushing. So, it’s one of things of who do you try to stop. They’re balanced, their quarterback, Schlinker (Evan Schlinker), he’s rushed for over 300 yards. So, it’s a four-headed monster.”

Through seven games, the Booneville offense has attempted 32 passes and have completed 17 for a total of 267 yards. The Bearcats average 15.7 yards per completion. They have passed for 3 touchdowns and have thrown 2 interceptions. Rushing, Booneville has rushed for 2,208 yards on 333 carries. They average 6.6 yards per rush. Per game, the Bearcats average 315.4 yards. They have rushed for 32 touchdowns.

Defensively, Booneville has 171 solo tackles, 226 assists, and average 56.7 tackles per game. They have 40 tackles on the season for negative yards. The Bearcats have sacked opposing quarterbacks 20 times for a total loss of 145 yards. The Booneville defense averages 2.9 sacks per game.

Booneville’s defense has 4 interceptions for the year. They have 11 fumble recoveries and have forced six. They have one blocked punt on the year.

Similar to the Tigers game against Cedarville, this will be an old-fashioned, hard hitting game in which both teams will try to impose their will to run the football on each other. Both teams play a physical brand of football.

Friday night’s game at Alumi Stadium could be a classic. Both the Charleston and Booneville football programs have a tradition of championship excellence, and both know how to win. Both are coached by great head coaches and will have their teams prepared to play. With three weeks to go in the season, the implications of this game on the standings could not be higher.

Booneville 4-0

Charleston 3-1

Cedarville 3-1

Lamar 3-1

Mansfield 2-2

A Charleston victory combined with a Mansfield win over Lamar will put Charleston in first place and Booneville and Cedarville in a tie for second place. Charleston would have the tie breaker over both teams.

It is a testament to this team that through all the injuries and adversity that they have faced, they enter week eight with an opportunity to be in first place in the conference. Charleston has been pointing toward the playoffs since that horrible month in September when it fought it’s way through a murderous non-conference road schedule playing short-handed from a multitude of injuries. As Coach May said, this team doesn’t change much mentally, and that has paid off for the Tigers.

A famous coach once said, “nothing is as good as it seems, and nothing is as bad as it seems.” That has rang true for the Tigers all season. As bad as September was for Charleston, it was not that bad. And now, the Tigers may be playing for a chance to win a conference championship on Friday.

It is time for Tiger fans to fill Alumni Stadium on Friday. The Bearcats are coming to town!

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Jim Best
Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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