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5 things to watch: Magnolia at Hot Springs

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The Hot Springs Trojans, hot off of their first win of the season, will look to carry their momentum into Friday's 5A-South conference matchup against the Magnolia Panthers.

Hot Springs (1-5, 1-2) is playing its second homecoming game in two weeks, while Magnolia (3-3, 0-3) is mired at the bottom of the conference standings.

Here are five things to watch in this week's game:

First win

Friday's 22-10 victory for De Queen's homecoming game was the first win for Hot Springs in 371 days, more than a calendar year, and the first for Darrell Burnett as a head coach. Burnett joined the program in the summer with a 59-17 record as a defensive coordinator at Camden Fairview, Malvern and Bryant.

Burnett said he saw a change in how his team performed when challenged in Friday's game.

"We have not handled adversity all that well," Burnett said. "Then, we got a stop defensively and we rolled down to score.

"That is the biggest thing. When something bad would happen in some games, they would think, 'Here we go.' Friday, they fought."

Hot Springs is now tied for fourth place in the 5A-South with Lakeside (2-4, 1-2), De Queen (1-5, 1-2) and Hope (1-5, 1-2). Burnett said he felt his team should have won at Hope on Sept. 28, but the Bobcats prevailed, 26-20, as the Trojans' errors proved to be too costly.

Burnett said the Trojans had six dropped passes in the game. Two of the six drops erased what would have been touchdowns.

Their focus now shifts to a Magnolia team which has allowed an average of more than 51 points per game in three conference games.

"We are going to do what we do and what has been working for us," Burnett said. "If they stop that, we have some things to work off of. We weren't able to do that at first.

"When we came in with a game plan, we had to stick with it, because if we tried to change anything, it would be like chaos. The kids have gotten a whole lot better with adjustments. We just have to come to play and give the people of Hot Springs something to be proud of."

Retooled offense

Junior Santiair Thomas is now the team's full-time quarterback after taking over at the start of the conference schedule in a 32-7 loss to Little Rock McClellan (6-0, 3-0), ranked No. 2 in Class 5A in the latest Arkansas Sports Media High School Football Poll.

"So far, it has been good," Burnett said. "We should have won against Hope. We got into the red zone a few times, but we did something to where we did not score. Two plays later, they score."

The Trojans gained 389 yards in the loss at Hope and 288 yards in the win against De Queen in their new power spread. Thomas has averaged more than 210 combined passing and rushing yards in the last two games, but the offense has also spread the ball around to more targets with Damien Walker at running back and leading receiver Terrance Floyd, as well as Aaron Williams, Spencer Johnson, Isaiah Martin, Trent Gordon and Deante Sanders.

"In the first couple of games, Spencer would go get the ball, Floyd occasionally or Damien, and that was it," Burnett said. "That was easy to stop."

Burnett said the offense often utilizes an empty backfield to create more space for Thomas and provide him with more targets. Senior Ramello Cason (6-3, 240) also switched from offensive line to tight end.

"We just can't key on anybody," Burnett said. "We have to play everybody honest. That is the good thing about the spread."

Magnolia remained at the bottom of the conference with a 38-21 home loss on Friday against Camden Fairview (3-3, 2-1) a week after losing, 71-48, at Lakeside.

"Lakeside did a good job passing the ball on them, but Lakeside also did a good job of getting to the perimeter," Burnett said. "They kind of got to the perimeter at will. That is what Lakeside has been doing for the last few years. They overload a side, run that buck sweep and some type of power to that weak side."

Burnett said the Trojans will also look to get to the outside, both on the ground and with flat routes in the passing game.

Run defense

"We have to make sure to handle the run," Burnett said. "If we can force them to pass the ball, it will be good."

Magnolia's offense is spearheaded by Louisiana-Monroe commit Kadyn Roach, who carved up the Rams' defense for 238 yards and four touchdowns on just 17 carries. Burnett said the Panthers run a similar scheme to McClellan, which ran for 364 yards at Hot Springs.

"The running back is strong and fast," Burnett said. "Their receivers are fast enough to beat you deep, and their quarterback is pretty athletic. I won't say they are as good as McClellan, but they have some athletes."

Hot Springs has faced several top rushing offenses with few challenges through the air, save for the loss at Hope. The Trojans allowed an average of 366.75 rushing yards per game through the first four weeks of the season, of which was 287.5 yards per game was on the ground.

The defense has since kept its two opponents to 239 yards and 188 yards of total offense. It was the passing game that hurt the Trojans at Hope as quarterback Hunter Heliums was 8-for-17 passing for 216 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception.

All three touchdowns went to senior Nikorian Muldrow (6-2, 185). He finished the night with six catches for 164 yards.

Turnovers

Hot Springs attacks opposing offenses with a balanced defense that has forced 27 turnovers in the first six games. Senior defensive back Eddie Miles leads the unit with five interceptions to go along with 18 tackles and 12 solo stops. He sealed the win at De Queen with a late interception return for a touchdown.

Thomas leads the defense as well with 48 stops and 26 solo tackles, four interceptions and a fumble recovery. Senior Dashan Doss has recovered two fumbles and is second on the team with 46 total tackles and 22 solo.

Cason leads the defensive line with 44 tackles and 21 solo stops, as well as 10 tackles for a loss. Sophomore Adrian Conway has stepped up in the past three weeks after making eight tackles through the first three games. He now has 27 total tackles this season, 13 solo and five tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Junior Devin Hill has 30 tackles, 15 solo, a fumble recovery and an interception.

Homecoming

"Like we told them at De Queen, 'Homecoming isn't homecoming unless you win,'" Burnett said. "Everybody wants to be around a winner. You can schedule all types of homecoming parities with the school and walks and everything else, it won't mean anything unless you win, because everybody is going to remember you losing."

"We have just been reiterating that the the most important thing this week is the game itself," Burnett added. "A lot of kids and a lot of people forget to think like that. They are more worried about the walk, who is homecoming king, who is homecoming queen and stuff like that, but we have a game to play."

Week 7

Other area matchups this week include Lakeside at Hope, Siloam Springs (3-3, 1-2 6A-West) at Lake Hamilton (4-2, 1-2), Fountain Lake (3-3, 0-3 4A-7) at Bauxite (6-0, 3-0), Malvern (0-6, 0-3) at Joe T. Robinson (5-1, 3-0), Haskell Harmony Grove (4-2, 2-1) at Arkadelphia (1-5, 1-2), Glen Rose (5-1, 3-0 3A-4) at Jessieville (3-3, 1-2), Centerpoint (4-2, 2-1 3A-5) at Camden Harmony Grove (5-1, 3-0), Horatio (2-4, 1-2) at Bismarck (1-5, 0-3), Cutter Morning Star (1-5, 0-3 2A-5) at England (2-4, 2-1), Magnet Cove (3-3, 2-1) at Mountain Pine (3-3, 2-1) and Mount Ida (6-0, 3-0 2A-7) at Foreman (6-0, 3-0).

Sports on 10/11/2018

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