JAY- After getting a much-needed first win of the season against McDonald County, Mo. last week, the Jay Bulldogs will open district play against the Miami Wardogs on Friday.
Coming off a 3-7 season a year ago, the Wardogs are currently 0-3 under new head coach Rick Woods, but Jay head coach Shane Holland sees a lot of improvement in the Miami program, which has dropped back down to 4A after competing in 5A last season.
“They’re playing a lot harder than they did a year ago,” Holland said. “They’re a much better team.”
Though winless so far Miami has only been outscored by an average of eight points through their three games, which includes a 15-13 loss to Grove in week one and a 14-7 loss to Pryor last week.
The Wardogs are led by quarterback Jacob Cheatham, who was converted from running back at the beginning of the season. Cheatham currently has 218 yards passing and 192 yards rushing through three games, accounting for three touchdowns.
“He’s hard to hit and he can run,” Holland said. “He’s a good competitor.”
Running back Kyle Jolley will also spearhead the Miami rushing attack, having compiled 116 yards so far on the season.
But it’s the Wardog defense that has Holland most concerned.
“They’re very good up front on defense. I think they are the best team up front defensively that we’ve seen. No doubt.”
Miami is led by linebacker Zeke Douthit, who has 35 tackles on the season. Jordan Hessee has 29 tackles through three games.
Last week’s 36-7 blowout for the Bulldogs was a welcome break for Holland’s team, which was coming off losses to two teams (Grove and Gravette, Ark.) that have a combined record of 5-1.
“We needed it,” Holland said. “It was a good week for us. We played better defensively, a lot better.”
Leading the way was wide receiver/defensive back Kyle Shambaugh. In addition to snagging an interception, Shambaugh caught three passes, all for touchdowns, and ran back a punt for another score.
“He had a tremendous game,” Holland said. “I asked him if he had ever had a game like that. He said, ‘Maybe on a video game’. We didn’t even throw to him that much. We mostly used him as a decoy.”
The Bulldogs used a series of big plays to overcome the ball control of the Mustangs.
“We didn’t have the ball that much,” Holland said. “We only ran five plays in the second quarter. But we hit a couple of big passes and scored 29 points at halftime.”
Holland and the Bulldogs hope that the momentum of last week’s win carries over to this season, when they open the defense of their District 4A-3 crown against the Wardogs at N.E.O. Friday night.