Bryant High School Athletics



The third-ranked team in the state is usually a favorite to win each week. The Jefferson City Jays don't have that luxury tonight as they travel four and a half hours to Springdale, Ark. The No. 3 Jays will battle the Har-Ber Wildcats, the second-ranked team in Arkansas, at 7 p.m. tonight. "We're underdog. That's the best thing," Jays coach Ted LePage said. "Why the heck wouldn't we want to go down there and play those guys? That's a great opportunity for us." Har-Ber has only played once this season, a 47-0 win against Fort Smith Southside. The Wildcats have only lost twice in their past 14 games — a 28-7 loss to Fayetteville in last year's state title game and a 36-26 defeat against Webb City in last season's opener. The Jays have done well in the neighboring state to the south recently, going 2-1 in their last three trips. They also beat Rogers at Adkins Stadium in 2014. Har-Ber is annually one of the power teams in Arkansas and didn't shown signs of slowing down last week. The Wildcats have had to replace their quarterback and all-state running back, but both newcomers did well in their season opener. Junior signal caller Payton Copher went 3-for-9 for 43 yards and a touchdown last week. He'll also be the fourth dual-threat quarterback the Jays have faced this season. He ran for 41 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown in Week 1. "I don't know if he throws as accurate as the guy did last year, but he's more of an athlete," LePage said. "They are running him a lot more than they ran the guy last year." Har-Ber's offense mainly runs through junior running back Logan Collins, who ran for 136 yards on just 12 carries with two scores against Southside. LePage said the Wildcats want to start by running the ball then take deep shots down the field. "The thing they do, they want to get their stream line running game going," he said. "Once their steam line running game gets going, you have to commit another guy to the box to stop it. Then they take their calculated shots over the top. They are not a small to medium passing team, they are going to take shots down the field. We have to work on that deep ball. We'll allow them to go four or five, six, seven, but we don't want that 20-plus yard play." Receiver Trey Smith only had two receptions last week, but recorded 42 yards and scored a touchdown. Har-Ber gained 311 yards on 46 attempts on the ground against Southside. "He's more of an Eric Dickerson guy," LePage said of Collins. "He hits a straight line and you're not getting him off that straight line." To create holes for Collins, Har-Ber uses its big, physical offensive line along with an H-back. "They move him around and they use him at fullback and tight end," LePage said. "The way I can best describe it is they have two offensive guards but that H-back is almost like another offensive guard." The Wildcats averaged nearly six yards per rush last season and 6.8 per attempt last week. "If we allow them to get four or five or six a pop, we're not going to get them out of their comfort zone," LePage said. "We're going to have to force them into situations where they are 2nd-and-10 and 3rd-and-10 to get them in very uncomfortable situations." The Jays won't just have to be prepared for Har-Ber's power running game or deep passing game. They've gotten ready to defend trick plays as well. During Wednesday's practice, the Jays' defense prepared for trick plays such as the flea flicker and a receiver pass. "We've seen everything from screens to double passes to outright reverses," LePage said. "They always seem to have a gimmick play for each game." As for the Jays' offense, they'll see a familiar look across the ball tonight — a 3-4 defense. LePage said Har-Ber's defense is similar to Jefferson City's, except the Wildcats have more size. "This will be the most physical team we play by far this year," LePage said. The Jays got a first look at Har-Ber's physicality during the summer at a camp in Bentonville. "They were trying to push and poke and we were pushing and poking right back," LePage said. Like the Jays, Har-Ber wants to create as many turnovers as possible. The Wildcats intercepted three passes, including one for a 23-yard score, and recovered two fumbles last week. "They have a very aggressive defense," LePage said. "They have a nose guard that goes about 310 and is an athlete and is a very, very good football player. They'll shift and they really like to outnumber you and get you to get into a bad play. They like to take chances on defense and they like to get after it." III Notes: The Jays will have linebacker Tate Borgmeyer back after sitting out last week with a back injury. "He came back starting Monday and looked like Tate," LePage said. "I would say last week we saw some deficiencies because of not having him on the field. He's a difference maker." Safety Mason York (neck) and defensive tackle Erick Schwarz (foot) both practiced Wednesday but are questionable. "We feel