Helena-West Helena knew it was going to play in the Class 4A playoffs heading into its regular-season finale at Warren on Nov. 1.
The Cougars treated their 8-4A Conference game with the Lumberjacks like a playoff game instead of going through the motions.
Led by senior quarterback Armonie Calhoun's four touchdowns, Helena-West Helena defeated Warren 60-36 at Jim Hurley Stadium in Warren.
"We wanted to go down there and perform," Smith said. "My kids did that. It was the best we looked all year."
Smith called the victory over Warren a momentum boost for the Cougars.
"The kids believe," Smith said. "They can play with anybody in the state. Every week we've been improving as a team."
Calhoun rushed for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns on 25 carries while completing 10 of 14 passes for 174 yards and another score.
Smith was pleased with Calhoun's performance.
"He's done a good job for us," Smith said. "He's come a long way. He's improving by running the football. He's a dual threat."
Calhoun has rushed for 1,584 yards and 19 touchdowns on 183 carries. He's also completed 38 of 87 passes for 689 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Helena-West Helena (8-2), the No. 4 seed from the 8-4A, will travel to 1-4A No. 2 seed Pea Ridge in a Class 4A first-round game today.
Last season, Helena-West Helena was scheduled to play Arkadelphia in a first-round game. But three Helena-West Helena school buses and one other vehicle crashed on Interstate 30 in Benton, which sent several students to the hospital. The Arkansas Activities Association announced that weekend that Arkadelphia would move on in the playoffs because of Helena-West Helena's accident.
"It was a hurting feeling," Smith said. "But they have an opportunity to go back to state and try to perform."
The Cougars are scheduled to leave for Pea Ridge at 7 a.m. today for what Smith said is scheduled to be a 5 hour, 15-minute drive. They're scheduled to have a walk-through at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Smith said.
Smith believes Helena-West Helena vs. Pea Ridge has a chance to be one of the first-round matchups today.
"It will be a pretty good game," Smith said. "They got it going on. They've had some great teams. We can't go in there half-stepping. We'll be ready."
Feeling at home
For the first time since 2013, Lonoke will have a home playoff game.
The Jackrabbits (5-5), who are the No. 3 seed from the 2-4A Conference, will host 1-4A No. 4 seed Prairie Grove today.
"The kids are excited," Lonoke Coach Taggart Moore said. "It's one of our goals to get here.
"We're here. We're ready to go."
Moore took over as interim coach during the middle of the 2016 season, replacing Doug Bost. He became the full-time coach in 2017 and has the Jackrabbits in the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
"When I took over, we knew it was going to be a rebuilding job," Moore said. "The group of seniors that I have now were sophomores [in 2016].
"They had what it took to be successful."
Junior Davante Adams leads the Jackrabbits offensively with 767 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns.
"He's really turned into a different back," Moore said. "He shied away from contact last year. This year, he looks for contact. He wants to lower the shoulder."
Senior Braidon Bryant has completed 42 of 84 passes for 691 yards and 4 touchdowns and has scored nine times on the ground.
Moore believes that the 2-4A Conference, with the Jackrabbits, champion Stuttgart, Heber Springs, Southside Batesville and Central Arkansas Christian, has improved this season and has helped his team get ready for the playoffs.
"Our conference was kind of underrated going into the year," Moore said. "The conference is getting back to where it should be."
Malvern will have a new football coach for the 2019 season.
Mike Scarbrough resigned earlier this week as Leopards head coach after six seasons.
The Malvern School District posted an opening for the vacant coaching position Thursday on its website.
Malvern finished 0-10 overall and 0-7 in the 7-4A Conference this season.
Greenwood Coach Rick Jones will receive the 2018 Power of Influence Award from the American Football Coaches Association and the American Football Coaches Foundation at the 2019 AFCA Conventional on Jan. 6-9 in San Antonio. Jones has won seven state championships at Greenwood and has the Bulldogs in this year's Class 6A playoffs as a No. 1 seed from the 6A-West Conference. ... Eight teams achieved undefeated regular seasons: North Little Rock, West Memphis, Harrison, Booneville, Clinton, Smackover, Rison and Hazen. Every team except Hazen finished 10-0 as the Hornets were 9-0 during the regular season. ... Rector is in the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The Cougars (5-4, 3-3) are the No. 3 seed from the 3-2A Conference and will host Fordyce today in a Class 2A first-round game.
Sports on 11/09/2018
Print Headline: Cougars ready for playoffs