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Paris Defense to Face Test Against Talented Newport Offense in Second Round of 3A State Football Playoffs

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When you get to this point, the second round of the state football playoffs, there just are not any easy games left. Every remaining team is a champion, and with each subsequent round, the path to a state championship becomes even more difficult. And for Paris, the Eagles must step-up their game after escaping the first round with a win over the four seed Riverview Raiders.

On Friday, the Eagles will board buses and make the almost three-hour drive to Northeast Arkansas to play the Greyhounds of Newport. Newport, from the 3A-2 conference, as was four seed Riverview, is tough every year. The Greyhounds have a tradition of football excellence in their school and community, and visitors are usually welcomed with a large number of athletes who are very talented and expect to win each time out. It is difficult to win at Newport, and this Friday will be no exception for Paris.

But make no mistake; Paris is more than capable of coming away with a second round victory and moving on to the state quarterfinals. But the Eagles will have to regain their composure from last week when they appeared frustrated by uncharacteristic mistakes that were made in all phases of the game. To the Eagles’ credit, they were able to overcome those mistakes and defeat a good football team that had played hard and came into Eagles Stadium with the intent to get a win in the state playoffs.

This year’s senior class is experienced in traveling a long way to Northeast Arkansas to play an important state playoff game. In last year’s quarterfinals, the Eagles made the almost four-hour trip to Hoxie to play the Mustangs. On that day, the Eagles found out that they would not have the availability of a senior running back due to COVID reasons, and then junior Duke Walker would have to carry most of the load at running back. This year, Walker will no doubt be the feature back, but he has help with senior running back Nate Henderson and junior Mason Bradley. The increased depth at running back will be a distinct advantage over last year’s encounter at Hoxie.

But, in this writer’s opinion, the game will be won or lost on largely the play of the Paris defense. Newport is ultra-talented on offense at almost every position. They are led by senior quarterback Elijah Alcorn who is a threat to beat you with both his arm and his legs. Over the course of his career, Max Preps has Alcorn’s career stats including 992 yards rushing and averaging 8.4 yards per carry. He has carried the ball 118 times, averaging a little more than 76 yards per game. He has rushed for a total of 16 touchdowns, meaning that he is a threat to run for the TD anytime Newport gets into scoring position. Passing, the talented quarterback has 95 completions in 13 games out of 150 attempts. His completion average is a little more than 83%, and his yards per completion average is 16.6 yards. He has 14 passes for touchdowns with just 9 interceptions. His longest pass for completion is 31 yards.

So, Alcorn can beat you both passing and rushing the ball, but his stats suggest that the priority in defending him will be to contain him and to avoid long rushes for big, explosive plays. A task easier said than done, but Paris has good team speed as well, and it will be incumbent on the linebackers and secondary to contain the talented Newport quarterback.

Newport defeated Lincoln last week in the first round of the state playoffs. As a point of comparison, the Greyhounds defeated Riverview in the regular season by the score of 41-0. It is not always a valid comparison, but, it is obvious that Paris will have to shake the first round mistakes and play the football they are capable of playing to defeat the Greyhounds.

Resident Press will be in Newport on Friday night to bring you the story and photographs of this important 3A state playoff game. Due to time and distance, this story will not be published until Monday. Photos of the game will also be posted on Facebook at Paris Eagles Sports on Monday.

So Eagles fans, get ready to fly at high altitude to travel to Newport and show up big for your Paris Eagles. I expect Paris to be ready to play and to put the mistakes of last week behind them.

Have a safe trip, and I look forward to seeing you at the stadium on Friday! GO EAGLES!

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