After a week one loss at Dardanelle that can be best characterized as a very young football team getting their feet wet on the road against a very good Class 4A team, the young Charleston Tigers (0-1, 0-0) return home this week to Alumni Field to take on the Posttsville Apaches (2-0, 0-0). Charleston, who is known for playing a tough non-conference schedule, will play three of the four top teams in the tough Class 4A-4 conference. The Tigers, already having played at Dardanelle, will play Pottsville this Friday and will host the top-ranked team in the Class 4A-4 conference, the Ozark Hillbillies the following week. Charleston head football coach Rickey May compared his team’s non-conference schedule to that of “playing in the SEC West.”
Charleston is very talented, but at the same time, very inexperienced. Last Friday night’s performance may have been a case of early nerves for the young Tigers as many played their first varsity football game. Playing that first game on the road against a very good Class 4A team may have been a little overwhelming to the young Tigers.
Charleston head football coach Ricky May said after the game, “We had a lot of young mistakes. We just didn’t take care of stuff. We had two turnovers and two interceptions, and I want to say we had 14 or 15 penalties. Early in the game our corner and safety did not communicate and they ran a seam route that put them on the ten and they scored a few plays later. We started the game on offense with a five yard penalty on the first play. We had another sophomore who snapped the ball over our punter’s head. They got the ball on our three yard line. A few plays later they scored again, and we were down 14-0. I stayed that way until the fourth quarter. We got a little tired on defense and then had a couple tough interceptions, and it just didn’t go our way. We dropped several passes. I told them after the game that nobody is hurt and they say that your biggest jump is from the first game to the second. So, hopefully that is true for us. There was a lot of promise in what we saw, we just didn’t execute.” In short, it was a really young and inexperienced team that went on the road and got their feet wet against a good 4A team. That experience will pay off in the future for Charleston. “Once we settled down, we didn’t play bad at all. We just never got any field position. We hit a couple of good plays; I thought Breckon Ketter had a good night, but we just could never get it together.”
But not all was gloom and doom for Charleston last Friday night. After early errors that dug the Tigers into a deep hole on the scoreboard, the young team dug their heals in and competed with Dardanelle into the fourth quarter where they held the Sand Lizards scoreless for almost two quarters. But then the mistakes surfaced again for Charleston, and the final score was Dardanelle 27-0 over Charleston.
Perhaps the best news and possible silver lining to the trip to Dardanelle was, unlike last season, the Tigers did not lose anyone to injury, and Charleston showed glimpses of the good team they will become this year. Although the team is very inexperienced, they are ahead of last year at this point when after a devastating loss, the team had lost multiple starters to injury. By getting out of the Dardanelle game healthy, Charleston has a chance to work on the issues that surfaced in last week’s game with all of their personnel before they play this Friday.
After playing at the number two team in the Class 4A-4 conference, the number four ranked team from that conference, the Pottsville Apaches will travel to Charleston this Friday. Pottsville is a big and explosive team and the young Tigers will have to grow up fast this week.
Pottsville plays in the 4A-4 conference with Ozark, Dardanelle, Mena, Waldron, Lamar, and Dover. According to Hooten’s Arkansas Football publication, the predicted order of finish in this conference is:
The Apaches have made the state playoffs the last two years, but have faced powerhouses Arkadelphia and Joe T, Robinson in first round losses. Pottsville is looking to finish higher than their projected fourth place finish to draw an easier first round game in the state playoffs.
Pottsville is a big, physical, and athletic team that features a very good pocket passing quarterback, Konnor Carpenter, and perhaps one of the best wide receivers in Arkansas, Elijah Bradley. The Apaaches’ excellent skill players combined with a very large and physical offensive and defensive line makes Pottsville a strong contender in Class 4A. “In years past, they have been a “T” formation team that will run it right at you. I guess because of that kid (Konnor Carpenter) they have gone to more of a spread offense. They will drop back into the “T” formation in short yardage situations, but man they have probably one of the best skill kids (Elijah Bradley) around. They have him listed as a wide receiver, but he plays all over the field. He plays running back, inside and outside receiver; they just try to get him the ball in a variety of ways, and he’s pretty good.”
Charleston has a tradition of playing up in competition each year to prepare their teams for conference play. In this reporter’s opinion, Charleston will not face anyone as tough in conference play, with the exception of possibly Cedarville, as they will face in their non-conference schedule. Tigers fans certainly want to win every time they take the field or the court, but Charleston will keep their eyes on the prize as they prepare for conference play that is their pathway to the Class 3A playoffs. The Charleston fans will want to see progress and development of their young players, along with staying healthy during the non-conference schedule. If Charleston does this, the Tigers will be very strong in conference play.
This is a year that Tigers fans will have to be patient with a young team as they gain experience playing together on the varsity level. But make no mistake, this group of young Tigers is very talented and they will show significant improvement each week of the season. They need your support and encouragement as they play two more of the top 4A teams in the state on the way to the start of the conference schedule. And at the end of the season, the Tigers will be there and will be ready to make some noise in the Class 3A state playoffs.
Kickoff Friday at Alumni Field is set for 7 p.m. Don’t forget to bring your masks, and please remember to observe the AAA and Arkansas Department of Health regulations that will be in effect for all those in attendance.
Good luck to the Charleston Tigers in Friday’s home opener against Pottsville! Resident Press will have a recap of the game and a preview of the Tigers game with Ozark next Sunday night.