MOUNTAINBURG -- Senior Austin Taylor has provided plenty of highlights at Mountainburg, including his stunning performance last year in a first-round playoff game.
That's where Taylor ran for 277 yards on 14 carries in a 55-52 victory over England. England had the edge in overall team speed but Taylor was the equalizer for the Dragons, who punted only once in the high-scoring game.
"England was a fast football team, but Austin had several long runs in that game," Mountainburg coach Tom Harrell said. "He was faster. He left them behind."
Rushing for well over 200 yards in postseason play would be a career highlight for many players but not Taylor, who points to his performance in a conference game against Hackett.
"Yes, probably Hackett," Taylor said. "I had 271 yards on seven carries in that game."
Taylor will get another opportunity to shine in posteason on Friday when Mountainburg (7-2) hosts Parker's Chapel (2-7) in a first-round Class 2A playoff game. Mountainburg finished 9-2 last year after being eliminated 38-26 by Conway Christian in a second-round game.
"Austin's speed on the edge sets up everything we do," Harrell said. "He can go to the house from anywhere."
Mountainburg is a handful for many opponents with its run-oriented attack that incorporates aspects from the spread, wing-T, and single wing. Taylor leads the way with over 800 yards rushing on the season but the Dragons have other playmakers in the backfield. That was apparent two weeks ago when Mountainburg defeated Magazine to earn a share of the 42-A Conference championship.
The Rattlers focused on stopping Taylor and the Dragons turned to fullback Malachi West, who scored three touchdowns and has over 600 yards rushing on the season. Jesse Quick is also a threat with over 500 yards rushing for the Dragons, who average 40 points per game.
"Our offense is one where you have to respect more than just one guy," Taylor said. "That makes it better for all of us."
Mountainburg had won six consecutive games before losing 26-22 last week at Hector to end the regular season. The loss slowed the Dragons' momentum and forced them to share the conference championship with Hector, which overcame a 22-14 deficit in the third quarter. Hector earned a first-round bye with the win.
"You can take it two ways after losing a game like that," Taylor said. "I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to learn from it and move on."
Taylor is an all-around athlete who is also a top player for the basketball team at Mountainburg. After high school, he plans to attend college, perhaps at Ouachita Baptist, and pursue a degree in the medical or nursing profession,.
For now, he's focused on extending his football career and the season for the Dragons as long as possible.
"I've been playing football at Mountainburg since I was in kindergarten," Taylor said. "We've all grown up together. I want to keep winning for my teammates."
Smith poses biggest threat to Hornets' playoff run
Hackett (4-5) kept it's 13-year playoff appearance streak alive after dominating J.C. Westside, 46-14, in the last game of the season, but for a team that has dropped a couple of close games, he knew there was no guarantee the Hornets would make the playoffs.
Hester just appreciates the chance to be back, he said.
"It's still good to be playing Week 11," Hester said. "Some kids are lacing up their basketball shoes right now, while we're still playing football."
Hester thinks his team's record does not accurately reflect the level they've been playing, and he's preparing his team mentally for Hackett's matchup against Mountain Pine (7-3) on Friday night.
But Hester knows the Red Devils will be one of the most complete teams, his Hornets have faced this season, he said.
"They're a good ball club," Hester said. "They're athletic, they have good size. They're going to be a real quality opponent."
Hester's biggest focus headed into the matchup is stopping Mountain Pine's quarterback, Collin Smith. The senior totaled 30 touchdowns and almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season at the helm of the Red Devils' offense.
"We're going to have to stop their quarterback. They revolve around him," Hester said. "We can't let that quarterback get away from us."
Whoever comes out on top in the game will face the winner between Des Arc and Magnet Cove, who Hackett lost to in the playoffs last year.
-- Alex Nicoll • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Run-heavy offenses expected to dominate
Magazine coach Doug Powell knows that when he takes the field against the Carlisle Bison (4-5-1) in the first round of the Class 2A, it's going to be like looking into a mirror.
"We're very similar in kind of some of the things we want to do," Powell said. "Neither one of us are going to come out, spread it out and just throw it."
That's why he expects the matchup to be a tightly contested one and a short one at that if both teams can get their ground games going, he said.
The Rattlers have won four straight at home, which bodes well for a streaking team like the Bison, which had a four-game win streak before losing to Earle, 36-20, last Friday night. Magazine has gone 2-2 in their last four games and is coming off a shutout of Western Yell County
Powell was pleased with how the Rattlers (5-4) played overall this season, but thinks they have sometimes struggled with consistency, an issue he knows will have to be fixed before they face Carlisle.
"I think our record reflects that: we were good enough to beat our conference champion and then turn around and lose to our five seed," Powell said.
But Powell can't stress to his players enough about what is at stake if they lose, he said.
"There is no tomorrow," Powell said.
The winner will face Foreman (8-1, 6-1), which received a bye after finishing with the second-best record in Class 2A, in the next round.
-- Alex Nicoll • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Golden Arrows searching for consistency
Lavaca coach Brian Schlinker said his team will be looking to find the spark it had three weeks ago when the Golden Arrows travel to Conway Christian for their first-round playoff game on Friday.
Lavaca downed Magazine 34-24 three weeks ago on the road, but finished the season with losses to Hackett and Hector. The Golden Arrows played Class 3A Lamar's JV last Friday in a tune-up since Decatur decided to play eight-man football this season.
Schlinker said he was able to give several starters a chance to heal up, but also lost Alex Dugan, a receiver/defensive end, to a knee injury.
The Golden Arrows (4-5) have been up and down throughout the season, Schlinker said. But he's hoping to find the same effort on Friday that he saw against Magazine.
"I was very excited about where we were headed," Schlinker said. "I thought we played Hector well in the rain. Hackett was pretty rough. We didn't play well on either side of the ball. We want to find that Magazine team again.
"We had a confidence level going into that game and played physical on both sides of the ball that night."
They get a Conway Christian (8-2) team, which Schlinker said will present quite a challenge.
"We're gonna have our hands full," Schlinker said. "They have a quarterback and a running back who both run the ball well. The quarterback is also very accurate. He's a patient kid, who doesn't get rattled."
Seniors Jimmy Hall and Tyler Armistead have been keys to the Lavaca offense. Hall has thrown for 804 yards and ran for 150 more. Armistead has run for a team-high 760 yards and nine touchdowns to go with 74 tackles and 4.5 sacks from his linebacker position.
-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Preps Sports on 11/09/2018
Print Headline: CLASS 2A FOOTBALL Taylor eager to shine again in playoffs for Dragons