Arcola football-franco vs. Tri-County

Arcola wide receiver Ivan Franco (2) carries the ball during  a 42-19 first round victory over Tri-County in the Class 1A playoffs at Thomas-Bradford Field. Arcola, 9-2, plays 11-0 Central A&M at Moweaqua at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals. 

MOWEAQUA — Two teams that can score a lot of points square off Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Mark Ramsey Field in the Class 1A state quarterfinal football game. Central A&M, the host school, averages 47.3 points. The Raiders will face an Arcola team that averages 42.6 points. 

"They present a lot of problems for a defense just because of their weapons and the tact that they can score from anywhere at any time," said Arcola coach Nick Lindsey of Central A&M. 

Central A&M coach Brent Weakly said: "Their offensive line is really good. Hugo Garza (6-2, 280), Beau Smothers (6-3, 250) and the others get off the line. Ivan Garza does a nice job of blocking as a fullback. They are starting to use Pedro Gauna more out of the backfield. Diego Perez and Ivan Franco are explosive when they get their hands on the ball and Beau Jones does a good job of running the offense. They are well-coached."

Arcola is 9-2 and was ranked No. 14 in the final Associated Press poll. The Purple Riders are a No. four seed in the 16-team bracket, while Central A&M is 11-0 and finished at No. 2 in the rankings. The Raiders are the top-seeded team in the bracket. 

Central A&M is led by 6-4  190 pound senior Connor Heaton, who averages 192.7 yards per game. Connor Hutchins, a 6-4 190 pound senior, and Jacob Paradee are the top receivers with 45 and 42 catches, respectively. Paradee averages 95.1 yards per game receiving and he leads the team in touchdowns receiving with 17. 

The Raiders average 196.7 yards passing and 264.1 rushing, with Brady Patton, a 5-6 150 pound junior, leading the 11-0 team with an average of 98.4 yards. 

Lindsey said Central A&M reminds him somewhat of Argenta-Oreana. 

"They are a little bit like Argenta with the weapons and athletes they have," said Lindsey. "Both teams have explosive quarterbacks."

The winner will play the victor of the Carrollton at Athens game in the semifinals Nov. 23.

Arcola is led by Jones, who averages 125.8 yards passing, while Austin Hopkins, a 5-8, 180-pound senior, averages 127.4 yards rushing. Perez and Franco are the top receivers with 36 and 23 receptions, respectively. Perez averages 65.1 yards and Franco 37.8. The Purple Riders average 134 yards passing and 183.6 rushing. 

"We have to be great with our eyes and tackle and if we do that we think we will have a chance to slow them down," said Weakly. 

Both teams have had an unusual week of practice in the snow. 

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"We've had to make some adjustments, but it has been really good overall," said Lindsey of the week of practice. "The kids have had great intensity and focus."

Gauna said, "It is the first time I have ever practiced in the snow. It made it a fun atmosphere."

Arcola's defense has allowed 17.2 points per game, while Central A&M has allowed 15. 

"I think they do a good job up front," said Weakly. "Their strong safety and corners do a good job of tackling and do a good job when the ball is in the air."

The Raiders play a 3-3 stack defense. 

"My concern with them is their speed all over the field," said Lindsey. "They are very fast and play to their keys quickly. We will have to do what we can to slow them down."

As far as special teams go, Hutchins is the top kickoff returner for Central A&M while Rayden Gavis is for Arcola. Franco is 53-of-58 on extra points for Arcola, while sophomore Jarrett Robinson has made 55-of-62 extra points for A&M. 

"They are solid with a good kicker and punter (Hutchins is the punter averaging 34 yards per kick)," said Lindsey. 

Central A&M scored 21 points in the first quarter of its 69-34 second-round win over Fisher. Lindsey said the Riders have to avoid allowing the Raiders to get off to a similar start.

"It is really important for us to come out of the first quarter in a battle," said Lindsey. "We have to be very physical and control the ball. Teams have been forced into a lot of mistakes against them and they definitely capitalize on them."

Weakly said he likes the fact his team is home.

"We don't have to get on a bus," Weakly said. "It is always nice to have the home-field advantage in the postseason. Our fans are loud and there is no track so they are right up there. We know Arcola travels well and it should be a fun game for everyone that comes."

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Contact Mike Monahan at (217)-238-6854. Follow him on Twitter: @monahanmikejgtc


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