Over the past two weeks alone, the Mountain Home Bombers have run a gauntlet of emotions.
Now, they prepare for the gauntlet known as the 7A/6A-East Conference.
After winning a down-to-the-wire game against Valley View two weeks ago, the Bombers fell in a last-minute setback to Nettleton last week and now are 1-2 going into conference play.
The Bombers play their toughest opponent yet when they travel to Jonesboro to face the Hurricane, the fifth-ranked team in Class 6A, Friday night at Cooksey-Johns Stadium.
“I told them Saturday morning I beat myself up over it,” Mountain Home head coach David Joyce said of the team’s narrow loss to Nettleton, “because you want to win the game and we needed about 2 feet to win the game, or a stop, one or the other.
“The previous week, we got the stop,” Joyce noted. “I said to them, ‘if we would’ve won last night, does it change the state of our program? Would it change who you are and how you prepare for games?’ and they all said, ‘no.’ We just have to go through the process we preach every week of a faceless opponent and getting ready to play.”
The win over Valley View ended a 31-game losing skid, and Mountain Home now searches for its first conference victory since 2011, with a streak standing at 22 games.
“I feel like we’re finally starting to compete the way we’re capable of,” Joyce said, “but we have to play more cleanly going into conference play, where mistakes usually equal points. We have to play four quarters of clean football to have a chance to win in the end.”
Jonesboro has switched from a 4-4 to a 3-4 defense and is allowing 27 points per game so far this season.
“Jonesboro and Nettleton run very similar defenses up front,” Joyce said. “Jonesboro will play a little more zone in the secondary, where Nettleton would drop and play man-to-man.”
Offensively, the Hurricane are averaging 34 points per contest out of their Spread attack.
“They have a really good running back and a really good receiver,” Joyce said. “They do distribute the ball to all five skill players, but they really try to get those two players the ball a lot. The receiver, he goes vertical every game. They’re going to take five or six shots down the field for big plays, and he’s hit a few this year. The running back is a threat and can go to the house any time he touches the ball.”
Last week, Nettleton kept drives going with several pass plays to the middle of the field against the Bombers.
“If our (inside linebackers) don’t take the proper angle,” Joyce said, “once you break past linebacker depth, there’s a spot between the linebackers and safeties, and that’s where they were throwing the ball. We’ve definitely been working this week on taking the proper angles in our pass drops.”
While the Bombers piled up 429 yards of offense, Mountain Home could not turn several long drives into points against the Raiders, suffering four turnovers on downs in the contest.
“We really game-planned hard this week on our red zone plays, what we’re going to call,” said Joyce. “It’s been a theme this year that we can move the ball, then not finish the drives. If we could’ve finished last week, we would’ve won the football game. We haven’t changes much on offense, just trying to gain some consistency in the red zone.
“I felt like Nettleton had the majority of their athletes on the defensive side of the ball,” the second-year Bomber mentor added. “Offensively, they had some, but they had studs on defense, who could run. Jonesboro’s (defense) is similar in talent. We just need to clean up mistakes and score some more points.”
Bombers vs. Hurricane
Who: Mountain Home (1-2) vs. Jonesboro (2-1)
Where: Cooksey-Johns Stadium, Jonesboro
When: 7 p.m. Friday
What to Know: Mountain Home is averaging 356 yards of offense per contest so far this season, but only 20 points per game. The Bombers are searching for their first conference victory since Oct. 28, 2011. … Jonesboro is looking for its first home victory of the season. The Hurricane fell to Conway in Week 2 in Jonesboro. The Hurricane are on a quest for their fifth straight season with a trip to at least the 6A State semifinals.