After a hot 4-0 start to the 2020 season, the Paris Eagles will host the Two Rivers Gators this Friday in week two of the conference schedule. Paris hopes to move to 2-0 in the conference and keep pace with the conference leaders; remaining in contention for the conference championship and a high seed going into the state playoffs.
So far this season, and as evidenced last Friday against Mayflower, the Paris Eagles have been dominant in all phases of the game. In last week’s victory, the Paris defense completely shutdown Mayflower and never allowed the Eagles to get started on offense. Paris head football coach Tyler Clark was ecstatic over his team’s performance, especially on defense. Coach Clark commented after the game, “Proud of the kids, man. Our defense played really, really well. They are flying to the football like they have been, really all season. So, they are really setting the tone for us right now. We took a little while to get going on offense, but I thought we saw some good things once we did get going.” I asked Coach Clark if he thought the physical game the Eagles played at West Fork was carrying over for the team, especially on the defensive line. Coach Clark responded, “Anytime you play versus a quality opponent, it makes you better. I certainly believe West Fork was that. That’s going to help us, but also our confidence level. Our kids are really confident; not cocky, but really confident. Our heads are really in a nice spot right now, and it is nice to be 1-0 (in conference play.)”
Paris was able to once again empty the bench and give its reserve players significant playing time against Mayflower. I asked Coach Clark how important this is, as the Eagles have been able to do so several times already this season. Coach Clark said, “It’s (mass substitutions) what has to happen. These programs that are really good, they get their backups in all the time. Those kids get reps and they get better, too. I’m glad its happening this year.” The role of the reserve players cannot be understated. Their playing time protects the starters and at the same time develops quality depth on the roster as the team goes down the schedule and each game becomes increasingly more important.
And it appears that Paris once again has escaped a game without significant loss of personnel due to injury. Coach Clark said, “We have some bumps and bruises, but that’s going to happen in football. Yeah, I think we are fairly healthy right now.” For all conference teams, the teams that are healthiest at the end of the season have a decided advantage both making and playing in the state playoffs.
After last Friday’s opening night in conference play, the conference standings going into week two are as follows:
LR Baptist Prep 0-1
Two Rivers 0-1
The week two conference schedule is:
Paris vs. Two Rivers
Booneville at Danville
Atkins at Perryville
LR Baptist Prep at Mayflower
When you look at the week two schedule, the standings could begin to separate teams a little, especially in the order of the top four. Either Atkins or Perryville will lose a conference game this week, and the winner could find themselves in a potential three way tie for first, and the loser dropping into as low as fifth place in the conference. This underscores the importance for Paris having won their first game of the conference season last week, and why this week’s game against Two Rivers must be the Eagles’ sole focus on Friday. Important games down the line in the Eagles’ schedule will not be as important if they do not take care of business this week against the Gators.
Coach Clark commented, “Our defense, our starting defense, is playing lights out right now. Our defense has given up seven points in three games. That’s pretty impressive. Our defensive line is playing really well. Jimmy Dikeman, I’ve been at a few places and I have seen my fair share of football, but he (Dikeman) may have had the best all around game I have seen a kid have. On the offensive line, he is getting after it. Really, just finishing his blocks and putting people on the ground; going off on linebackers. Defensively, he was blowing up the center all night. And then, he’s a big kid and he is not really fast, but he was finding his way down the line and getting in on tackles toward the sidelines. I was extremely impressed with his game.”
As a reporter, I often have to remind myself that teams must respect every opponent, regardless of their record. Two Rivers has not won a game this year, and their program has struggled over the past several years. But Coach Clark knows, and his team knows, that you must respect every opponent. Coach Clark said, “I see it (this week’s game) as an opportunity to work on putting people away when we are supposed to; taking care of our business. We want to get our backups in to get those guys reps, but at the same time, there’s a lot of things we still have to fix, offensively and defensively. But, the second we do not respect folks, that is when we will get hit in the mouth pretty hard and get a big piece of humble pie. It’s not like we are a perennial powerhouse. It wasn’t long ago that we were struggling as a program.”
Friday night’s game against Two Rivers is scheduled as Paris’s homecoming game. As of the publication time of this story, it is unknown to Resident Press as to if homecoming ceremonies will go on as planned, or if they will be re-scheduled. The quarantine status of the Paris volleyball team could potentially affect homecoming as some of the girls on the team have been selected as part of the homecoming court. The unofficial word that Resident Press has now is that the volleyball team will not be out of quarantine until after Friday’s football game with Two Rivers.
So, Friday’s game with Two Rivers will be a test of how far the Eagles’ football program has developed over the past three years. Respecting all opponents, regardless of record, is a maturity mark for a team and their program. I expect to see the same Paris team come out this Friday that has played so far; a team who will play with great energy and intensity as they have all season. Friday’s game will mark the halfway point of the 2020 season, and all of the goals this team has set for themselves are still out there and are obtainable. It will be up to the Eagles to play Two Rivers as the most important game of the season so far, and that is exactly what it is.
The Weather Bug forecast for Friday is perfect for high school football. The forecast calls for clear and sunny with a high temperature of 65 degrees and a low of 50 degrees. Temperature at kickoff should be around 62 degrees with second half temperatures in the mid fifties…perfect football weather!
So, bring a light jacket and come out and support your undefeated Paris Eagles! And don’t forget, Resident Press will have a recap on the Two Rivers game Saturday afternoon.
Have a great week, and RP will see you at the game!