The Malvern Leopards have impressed lately after winning three straight conference games. The Leopards defeated Bauxite in the conference opener, 35-7, then shut out H. Harmony Grove on the road 43-0. The Leopards then gave Ashdown their first loss of the season after defeating them 32-7.
But now the Leopards face a tough test going on the road to Charlie George Stadium to take on the defending 4A State Champions, the Joe T. Robinson Senators.
“They’re the state champs last year and got just about everybody back,” Malvern head coach J.D. Plumlee said. “So it’s just a great test. In this conference you get a chance to play the best two or three teams right now in the state.”
The Senators rank third in the state for the class 4A but enter Friday’s game on a two game losing skid. The Senators took on Texas’s Trinity Christian in week 5, after their game with Arkadelphia was canceled due to COVID-19, and lost 54-0. The next week, the Senators traveled to Nashville to resume 7-4A conference play. The Senators lost to Nashville, 36-35 after missing a field goal that would have won the game.
Despite the two game losing skid, the Leopards know the Senators will be a test. “[It’s] just a great opportunity,” Plumlee said. “We’re excited about it, the kids are excited about it. We’re 3-0 and it’s an assessment on where we’re at.”
Offensively, the Leopards are going to continue working on what they do. “We still have a lot of football left in us,” Plumlee said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we do and keep developing our offense, keep tweaking a little bit here and there to add to our menu of things that we do.”
Last week against Ashdown, quarterback Cedric Simmons surged with 228 passing yards and four passing touchdowns. He also paced the Leopards rushing with 15 carries for 86 yards.
Defensively, Plumlee said that they’ll continue to be strong up front and keep doing what they do. “We’re going to keep doing what we do and make sure we’re sound when we line up,” he said.
The challenge for the Leopards defensively is injuries. “We’ve had to move some guys around on defense this week because of injuries,” Plumlee said. The Leopards goal is to make sure that the defensive players are comfortable in their system and will be able to go on Friday.
Special teams will also play a factor in this week’s game. Plumlee said that Joe T. Robinson does a good job on special teams and have a good kicker. He said the Leopards will have to be on their toes to make sure they don’t give up points or yards during kickoff. “We’ll continue to work that phase of the game and make sure we don’t give up any crazy points or any crazy yards,” he said.
Plumlee does feel like the Leopards have been solid on special teams the past two weeks. “We feel good about it,” he said.
Overall the Leopards feel blessed to have an opportunity to go up against one of the top teams in the state. Plumlee said that Friday’s game isn’t a do or die game and that the Leopards are going to continue doing what they have been doing the whole season. “We’re just blessed with an opportunity to see where we’re at,” he said. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.