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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Tigers Seek Second Conference Win at Cedarville

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There is no question that Friday night’s conference victory over Greenland was a huge win for Charleston. But now, it is time for the Tigers to focus on a very good Cedarville Pirates team in week two of the conference season. The Tigers will travel to Cedarville Friday night for what should be some old fashioned, physical football.

If you are a football purest who loves teams that run the football, this game is for you. Both Cedarville (4-0, 1-0) and Charleston (1-3, 1-0) love to run the football. This game does not promise to be a game where both teams will be throwing it all over the place for three plus hours.

At the time of publication, statistics were not available for Cedarville’s win over Lamar. The statistics in this article encompass the first three games of the season for Cedarville.

Cedarville is undefeated and is ranked 12th in Class 3A according to Max Preps. Across all classifications, Cedarville is ranked 74th in Arkansas. Charleston, after its win against Greenland, is ranked 20th in Class 3A, and 109th across all classifications in the state. Cedarville’s win over Lamar last week dropped the Warriors to 13th in Class 3A. Charleston’s win over Greenland dropped Greenland to 22nd in Class 3A.

Cedarville runs the football, and they run it well. In their first three games, the Pirates ran the ball an average of 446.0 yards per game. Passing, Cedarville averaged 35.3 yards per game and had one touchdown. Their passing completion percentage through three games was 39 percent.

Cedarville’s vaunted rushing attack is led by sophomore running back Daryl Kattich. In the first three games, Kattich ran for 409 yards on 25 rushes. He averaged 16.4 yards per carry. For three games, Kattich has averaged 136 yards per game.

Joining Kattich in the backfield is junior Kelin Mitchell. Mitchell, in his first three games, has rushed for 379 yards on 23 carries. He averages 16.5 yards per rush and 126.3 yards per game. The backfield duo of underclassmen Kattich and Mitchell gives the Pirates a potent 1-2 punch in the backfield that will be strong not only this year but next, as well. Charleston coach Ricky May knows stopping or slowing the Cedarville ground attack will be a key to victory for the Tigers. “They have two really good running backs. Right now, nobody has stopped them. Our front (defensive line and linebackers) have been playing good. They can definitely hurt you if you are not reading your keys.” Charleston will need their defensive front to play a great game to have a chance to win at Cedarville. Stopping the run game, along with being ready for the occasional play action pass will be critical for the Tigers.

When you can run the ball as effectively as Cedarville there is not much of a need to pass. And the statistics are very telling. The Cedarville offense, in its first three games, passed the ball for just 106 yards on 13 attempts. The Pirates completed 5 of 13 attempts total in their first three games. They averaged 21.2 yards per completion. Cedarville had one pass for a touchdown in the first three games. Cedarville’s passing has been split between senior Calloway Henslee and sophomore Cody Dickens. Henslee has thrown for 74 yards on five attempts. He has completed 3 of 5 passes and has averaged 24.7 yards per pass. Dickens has passed for 32 yards on seven attempts. He has completed 2 of 7 passes for 16.0 yards per pass.

At publication time, defensive stats for Cedarville were not available.

Friday night’s game should be a test of wills. Cedarville wants to run the football, and it will be up to the Charleston defensive line and its linebackers to slow down or possibly stop the Pirates’ ground attack. Charleston’s strong point all season has been the front end of its defense, so it appears to be a game of strength versus strength.

As the Tigers prepare for Cedarville, both schools know the importance of the game with respect to standings in conference play. With both schools having games with Booneville and Mansfield later in the schedule, the importance of this game is magnified. Both schools won important week one conference games and earned a one game lead on half of the conference.

After week one of the conference season, the standings in district 3A-1 are:

Booneville 1-0

Cedarville 1-0

Charleston 1-0

Mansfield 1-0

Greenland 0-1

Lamar 0-1

Paris 0-1

West Fork 0-1

The Tigers have entered a crucial three game stretch that began last week with Greenland and will include this week’s game at Cedarville, and a home match with Mansfield on October 11. “Greenland, Cedarville, and Mansfield in a row is pretty tough. But if you come out of there and can win those games you are sitting really good.”

There is nothing like a win at home, particularly on homecoming night, to turn a season around. No one (injured players) reported to the coaches on Saturday following the Greenland game to get treatment for any possible injuries. The Tigers are riding the euphoria of a great win and are ready to go back to work on Monday. “I think they (Tigers players) are higher than they have been. We are expecting them to come in on Monday ready to go, fired up and ready to get it going.”

Consistency will be a key for the Tigers this week. Now that they have had a taste of victory this season, the team’s maturity will be tested in how they go back to practice to prepare for Cedarville. They have to forget last Friday night and focus on the 12th ranked team in Class 3A. I am sure that none of the players or coaches want to lose everything that was gained in the Greenland win. Conversely, a follow-up win this week in Cedarville puts Charleston in great position to make the playoffs.

It will be up to the coaches and the seniors on this team to keep the team focused on Cedarville and to approach this week in practice like they did against Greenland. From my observation this year, this should not be a problem. As I stated in yesterday’s article, this is a tough, hard-working team that plays their guts out every Friday night. And that is what I expect the Tigers to do.

Friday’s game will not be for the faint of heart. The pads will be popping all night. It will be good old fashioned football. It won’t be pretty, but it will be a hard hitting game between two teams who will attempt to impose their will on the other to run the football. Don’t be surprised if this game turns on a surprise play or a turnover.

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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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