Class 5A - Week 14 - 2015

Class 5A - Week 14 - 2015

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Class 5A, Week 14, 2015
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1. Pulaski Academy (13-0)
2. LR McClellan (10-2)
3. LR Christian (12-1)
4. Batesville (9-4)
5. HS Lakeside (9-3)
6. Hope (9-3)
7. Wynne (7-5)
8. Greenbrier (7-5)
9. Blytheville (8-3)
10. Morrilton (7-4)
11. Camden Fairview (6-5)
12. Watson Chapel (4-7)
13. Hot Springs (6-4)
14. Beebe (5-5)
15. Forrest City (6-5)
16. Sylvan Hills (6-4)
17. Vilonia (5-6)
18. Nettleton (5-5)
19. Farmington (5-5)
20. Harrison (4-6)
21. De Queen (4-6)
22. Maumelle (3-7)
23. Jacksonville (2-7)
24. Mills (2-7)
25. Magnolia (2-8)
26. Valley View (2-8)
27. Paragould (1-9)
28. Greene County Tech (1-9)
29. Clarksville (1-9)
30. White Hall (0-10)
31. LR Fair (0-10)
No. 2 LR McClellan vs. No. 1 Pulaski Academy

Two teams from the same conference rematch in the Class 5A state title game for the first time since 2007 and the fourth time since 1999. Pulaski Academy won in Week 5 at Little Rock McClellan 41-30. The Bruins led 34-0 at halftime and 41-6 in the middle of the third quarter. But LR McClellan rallied within 11 points late in the fourth quarter before Pulaski Academy recovered a late onside kick. "It was great for our morale to understand we could hang with a team like Pulaski Academy if we played four full quarters," Little Rock McClellan coach Maurice Moody said.

LR McClellan has 11 wins this season after tallying just 16 wins the previous 11 seasons combined. The Lions advance to the state title game for the second time in school history and first since finishing as 1994 runners-up in the state's highest classification. "There is no adjective to describe the atmosphere on this campus," Moody says. LR McClellan won a state basketball title in March "and that winning attitude has carried over," the coach says.

The Lions finished as the No. 2 seed in the Central, losing only to Pulaski Academy and Class 7A Bryant. They downed Morrilton 52-50 in the first round, Hot Springs Lakeside 50-37 in the quarterfinals and Batesville 14-9 a week ago. They held Batesville to 161 yards.

LR McClellan starts seven sophomores on defense, including leading tackler Joe Lewis, a sophomore outside linebacker. Lewis has more than 100 tackles this fall. Sophomore defensive back Jaylin Cunningham intercepted Batesville's pass in the end zone in the final minute last week to preserve the victory. "We don't have any defensive stars, its just a team effort," Moody said.

Lion junior running back Pierre Strong paces Class 5A with 170 carries for 2,122 yards (12.5 yards per carry) and 27 TDs. Senior running back/linebacker Trent Lewis has 910 yards and two TDs. Lewis bailed out LR McClellan at Batesville by rushing for 143 yards and two TDs. Junior QB Dalvion Childs "manages the game and gets us in the right play," Moody said. Senior center Raymond Ivory (6-2, 240) and senior guards Courtlin Lightner (6-2 ,240) and David Moore (6-2, 300) spring the Lion rushing attack. "They are good up front," says Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow, whose Bears lost to LR McClellan 44-32 in Week 8 and Pulaski Academy 36-14 in Week 10. "It's hard to do much with them because they are big, physical and strong."

Torrential rains forced McClellan to move Monday's practice to Jacksonville's indoor facility. The Lions will practice in War Memorial Stadium Tue.-Thurs. Each finalist gets one practice at War Memorial Stadium, but Class 7A finalists Fayetteville and Har-Ber choose not to practice in War Memorial because of the extensive travel, opening up two slots for the Lions. "I'm glad they allowed the new guys a chance to practice more there. I don't think we'll be intimated by the big lights and video scoreboard."

Pulaski Academy plays in the finals for the seventh time in the past 13 seasons. The Bruins have won four state titles since Kevin Kelley took over as coach in 2003, including last year's 10-point victory over Wynne. Pulaski Academy, winners of 26 straight games, averages 51 points and 588 yards per game this season. Sophomore quarterback Layne Hatcher has completed 286 of 430 passes (66.5 percent) for 4,412 yards and 51 touchdowns. The Bruins got a big boost in Week 3 when senior receiver Zack Kelley returned from July ACL surgery. His first reception of 2015 covered 55 yards for a TD against Warren. Kelley has 73 receptions for a team-high 1,422 yards and 19 TDs this season. "He opened up the offense because he's our deep threat," Coach Kevin Kelley said. Zack Kelley's return hinders defenses from loading up to stop versatile senior receiver Tre Bruce and junior running back Jaren Watkins. Bruce has completed 41 of 83 passes for 457 yards and five TDs this fall, rushed 41 times for 322 yards and five TDs and hauled in 114 passes for 1,351 yards and 16 scores. Watkins has 149 carries for 1,894 yards and 23 TDs, and 26 receptions for 448 yards and three scores.

Former Bruin QB's Adam and Thomas Thrash both coached at Little Rock McClellan "so they know our playbook and our offensive signals," Kelley says. "In the past, they've called out the play before we snapped the ball." Adam currently serves as offensive coordinator at Maumelle while Thomas returned as an assistant at Pulaski Academy after coaching at Clarendon the past two seasons. The Bruins had as many negative or plays for zero yards as they did positive yardage plays in Week 5."We'll change up some of our signals," Kelley says, "do a few things differently."

The unheralded Bruin defense allows just 18 points weekly, with most of it coming late in games against reserves. "Their defense doesn't pass the eye test, but they are outstanding," Withrow says. "They look like college boys going to a frat instead of a guys going to play football. But they put so much pressure on you and force you to make mistakes." The Bruins held LR Christian to 87 yards in last week's semifinals. Senior linebacker Corbin Witham paces Pulaski Academy with 99 tackles and three forced fumbles. "Corbin is our rock," Kelley said. "He's key against McClellan because their offense has a lot of deception." Senior safety Justin Charette handles the onside kicks. "They've used six different onside kicks this year," Withrow said. Charette has 61 tackles and three interceptions. Senior end Robert Ator has 50 tackles, including 13 tackles for loss.

LAST WEEK correctly predicted one of two semifinal games. For the season, has correctly predicted 157 of 200 games (79 percent).

LR McClellan vs. PULASKI ACADEMY (21):

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