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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Charleston Remains Undefeated in Conference Play with 49-33 Win at Lincoln

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Note to Our Readers: We were unable to include photos in today’s story on the Tigers victory at Lincoln due to our photographer being in quarantine. We do hope to have pictures resuming again next week. Thank you for reading Resident Press.

It is something that every athlete who has played for Charleston knows and understands. And it is something that is embraced by every Tiger who has ever worn the uniform…when you play for Charleston, everyone brings their best game of the year against you. It is a tribute to the success of the Charleston athletic program, and everyone they play knows that they have to play well against the Tigers. Charleston coaches and their players embrace this as part of the Tiger tradition of excellence. And in Lincoln last Friday night, the Wolves gave Charleston everything that they had until they eventually succumbed to a 49-33 victory for Charleston.

Charleston (6-2, 5-0) remains in first place in the 3A-1 conference. Combined with a Greenland win over Cedarville last night, the Tigers now have a two game lead over Cedarville, and Greenland moves into second place in the conference behind Charleston. With two games to go in the conference season, Charleston can clinch the conference title this week with a win over West Fork, having the head-to-head tie breaker win over Greenland. A win this week and a win next week will give the Tigers the outright conference championship and the number one seed from the conference going into the state playoffs. This is quite an accomplishment for a very young Charleston team and their coach, Ricky May.

In my weekly Sunday interview with Coach May, he reflected on the Tigers performance at Lincoln. “Offensively, we played well. Didn’t turn the ball over. That was probably the difference in game, we didn’t (turn the ball over) and they did. They onside kicked the first two or three times, so we didn’t have very far to go. Really and truly, we just didn’t play very well on defense. After watching the film…after the game, I was a little bit upset…but after watching the film I was disappointed. Early on, we were up 15-0 and had them in a third and ten on their end and the wind was blowing like crazy. So, they were going to have to punt into that, and then we give up a big pass play on third down. I really felt like that if we hadn’t given up the pass we were getting ready to “mercy rule” them. But, we did. We gave up two big passes, right down the middle of the field. Just out of position. The first one we should have picked off, but their player jumped up and took it away from us. So, it comes down to us, and we did not play very good on defense Friday. Lincoln took advantage of some things we were not doing right, and hats off to those guys. We did have a fourth down stop right before the half, which was big. And we actually drove it back all the way to their thirty, but just ran out of time. The biggest issue was just giving up too many plays. We did, and they didn’t (give up big plays).”

Sometimes you have to find a way to win a game when you are not necessarily playing your best football. Charleston found a way to win, and that is encouraging for a young team playing late in the season on the road. “It worked out for us ok. We ended up winning the game. They always say an ugly win is better than an ugly loss. And that is definitely true. It was cold, and the conditions were a little different than we were used to, so that may have played into it a little bit.”

Lincoln is a former Class 4A program who has dropped in classification to Class 3A. The Wolves look like a team that can compete for and in the state playoffs. “No doubt that they can. They gave us their best shot, and I think they end up playing Cedarville in a couple of weeks and that is going to be a heck of a ballgame. If they play like they did last Friday, and they don’t always play like that. Like you said, they always play their best against us.”

After last Friday’s games in the conference, Greenland moved into second place with a big win over Cedarville. So the 3A-1 conference standings going into week nine are:

Charleston 5-0

Greenland 4-1

Cedarville 3-2

West Fork 3-2

Lincoln 2-2

Hackett 1-3

Lavaca 1-3

Mansfield 0-5

Week nine games in the conference include:

Charleston vs. West Fork

Greenland at Hackett

Mansfield at Cedarville

Lincoln at Lavaca

The biggest game in the conference will be Charleston hosting West Fork at Alumni Field. Charleston has head-to-head wins over everyone in the conference, and a win over West Fork will complete the sweep by Charleston over the top contenders in the conference. And again, a Tiger victory guarantees a share of the conference title, and a win against West Fork and in their final game with Lavaca gives the Tigers the outright conference championship.

West Fork runs the flexbone offense and has a massive offensive line. The West Fork Tigers want to run right at you, starting with their battering ram fullback, and gain three or four yards on every play. The want to control time of possession and control the clock. For Charleston fans who watch the preseason scrimmage against Booneville, the West Fork version of the flexbone is different than what the Bearcats run. West Fork runs a slow, methodical, and physical version of the offense, whereas Booneville has explosive speed and runs the option, particularly the outside pitch, to perfection.

West Fork’s Physical Flexbone Rushing Attack (Resident Press File Photo)

West Fork is currently fourth in the conference standings, but has a head-to-head loss with Lincoln. But, in the year of the COVID virus and its effect on high school football, the West Fork Tigers also have more conference wins than Lincoln due to a cancelled game that Lincoln had with a conference opponent earlier in the year. So, the West Fork Tigers need a win in Charleston Friday night. If they don’t get it, it will be very interesting to see how the conference awards the fourth seed in the playoffs. From Charleston’s perspective, they have to get ready to play a team that has their backs to the wall with the respect of being a seeded team in the playoffs. In the words of Coach May, every game matters.

I asked Coach May for his thoughts about West Fork as he enters the week of practice and preparation for this important conference game. Coach May said, “The run the ball really, really well. It all starts with their big fullback guy (all-conference fullback Brenan Cash), he’s a stud. They’ve got a kid named Ivy (wing back Ross Ivy, 4.7 speed) can really fly. If you watch film, you see them play-action pass people, and that has been what we have been struggling with defensively. Hopefully, we can get ours (defense) fixed and cover the pass. But they present some good problems. They have a lot of returners on the line. If you remember, we struggled with them a little bit up there at their place.”

The weather Friday night is supposed to be beautiful in Charleston for the Tigers’ final regular season home game. The 2020 edition of the Charleston Tigers is on the verge of winning a conference championship, but the Tigers need their fans to show up as they always do to cheer the Tigers to victory! A Charleston win this Friday brings yet another conference title to the proud Charleston football tradition, and most likely, home field advantage in the state playoffs.

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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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