No one likes to play the “if” game when it comes to athletics and playoff opportunities.
With one game remaining, there is a potential for five teams to share this season’s 5A-South Conference title.
However, only four will advance to next week’s Class 5A State Playoffs.
“We just want to take care of what we can take care of. The playoffs are dependent on what some other teams do,” said Magnolia head coach Mark King. “All we can do is take care of ourselves, go over to Hope this week and see what happens.”
Right now, Magnolia, Arkansas High, Hot Springs and Camden Fairview have identical 4-2 conference records. Hot Springs Lakeside is leading the league with a 5-1 mark.
If all the 4-2 teams win Friday (which would leave Lakeside at 4-2), the conference championship would be shared by five teams.
If that happens, the four playoff representatives from the conference would be determined by head-to-head results and points.
A Panther victory should give them a playoff spot because of their victories over Hot Springs and Camden Fairview.
The Cardinals may slip in after defeating Hot Springs, who could possibly go from being first in the conference standings to out of the playoffs.
On Friday, the Panthers will be a heavy favorite over a Hope team that’s given up 50 or more points in its eight losses. Arkansas High should have no problems with winless De Queen.
The Cardinals will be in for a tough challenge at Little Rock McClellan, while Hot Springs needs to knock off Hot Springs Lakeside to keep their chance alive.
Again, King said his Panthers can’t look at anything else except having a good week of practice and getting a win at Hope.
The 5A-South Conference is matched up with the 5A-Central during the first round of the playoffs, with the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds playing, while No. 2 and No. 3 squaring off.
The Central consists of Little Rock Christian (6-0), Pulaski Academy (5-1), Maumelle(4-2), White Hall (4-2) and Watson Chapel (3-3).
Against the Leopards and for the second straight week, Magnolia’s explosive plays lifted the team to victory.
Eight different Panthers scored in the game and most came off big runs.
The Panthers, with 496 rushing yards, only had 23 offensive snaps during the game.
They scored a touchdown on every third offensive play.
The touchdowns and yards included Garrion Curry, 9; Javorrea Murphy, 27; Kendrick Carey, 33; Amir Cooper, 51; DeRaylen Williams, 51; James’Darius Smith, 63; Braelyn Beasley, 66; and Cameron Warren, 82.
Jay Todd Baker connected on all of his PAT attempts.
On the first offensive snap, Smith broke loose on his 63-yard touchdown run.
On Magnolia’s third offensive snap, Beasley kept the ball for a 66-yard score to make it 14-0.
With 5:10 still in the first period, Murphy went up the middle for his 27-yard score, making it 21-0 after one period.
In the second, the lead moved to 28-0 when freshman Garrion Curry scored from the 9 and Warren’s 82-yard pushed the margin to 35-0. Cooper’s 51-yard gallop before the half made it 42-0.
In the first half, Magnolia’s defense forced two punts, two over-on-downs and an interception by Kahlil Collins.
With the mercy rule in effect the entire second half, the Leopards scored on a 2-yard quarterback sneak to make 42-7, but the Panthers answered when Carey rambled down the sideline for a 33-yard score.
The game’s final score came when Williams scored from 51 yards out.
“De Queen never backed down and played hard. They were with their three starting linebackers and other players. They are so beat up,” said King.
He noted that Magnolia was just a better team and his Panther played hard on both sides of the ball.
“This was the first game we didn’t have a turnover, which is a good things. We concentrated, ran hard and blocked well,” he explained.
According to King, Magnolia is blessed to have a lot of good skilled players and has some younger kids who will help the Panthers in the future.
King invited the undefeated freshmen to dress out with the varsity squad and allowed several to play in the game.
“We hate to run any score up on anyone, but our backups and younger kids practice hard everyday like everyone else. We can’t ask them to sit and kneel on the ball,” he said, adding his Panthers had an overall good night.
According to King, the Panthers are playing with a lot of confidence and more importantly, they believe in themselves.
“When they go into a game, they believe they are suppose to win, which is a huge factor. If you go out hoping you’re going to win, bad things are going to happen. If you go out knowing you’re going to win, it’s a lot different,” he explained.
King said the Panthers believe they can play with anyone as long as they don’t fumble the ball and make other mistakes.
“I certainly believe that if we continue to do that, the sky is the limit for this bunch.” he added.