Season wrap with Creek HC Matt Middleton

Matt Middleton led Cedar Creek to one of its best seasons in recent memory, highlighted by a marquee win over Oak Grove and a near-miss against No. 1 ranked Ouachita Christian. LPJ caught up to Middleton to talk about this past year and what lies ahead for the Cougars.

Q: What was your mindset in taking the Cedar Creek job last April?

A: I think the biggest thing was to have a chance to compete year in and year out to win a championship. That was one of the biggest things. I always thought that Cedar Creek was a place that you could do that. And obviously having a son that is a four-sports guy had a lot to do with it. The thought of having my five-year-old having a chance to go to a school that he could go K through 12 – start to finish – was really huge. The academic part of Cedar Creek was huge as well.

Q: After seeing this group in spring practice, did the success you had in the fall surprise you at all?

A: I felt like we had a good team. Obviously, we didn’t have a lot of experience. When you only have three seniors on a team that is a concern because you realize how young you are. What I didn’t realize was how instrumental all three of those seniors were. Obviously, some sophomores and juniors stood up and got a whole lot of experience through the year. It makes what lies ahead in the future exciting.

Q: What did you think would have to happen in order for this team to be success this year?

A: I think the biggest thing was for us to play really great defense. I knew we had the capability to do that. We have a really great coordinator in Mark Ware. I knew the offense we were going to run takes time to develop and pick up on. I knew we would start slow offensively and probably get better throughout the year. That’s what happened at other places I have been. I knew the heartbeat was our defense that gave us a chance to grow up offensively. When you look up at a year from now – you never want to lose three seniors that mean so much to your program, including the culture – but it’s also exciting because you have so much experience coming back.

Q: Did anything surprise you as this season unfolded?

A: Probably Jed Worthey running the football as well as he did. He finally became the feature back and was able to have a good bit of success. I think the biggest thing for me being a coach in Class A for the first time was learning how deep Division IV is. What I mean is how competitive it is versus the public school side. And then being in a district with some really good football teams and being a thick race. And then adjusting to playing so many kids both ways. That was an adjustment for me as well.

Q: How challenging was it to keep everyone focused during the year with everything going on off the field and then some difficult losses on the field?

A: We kind of developed a real strong culture and family atmosphere within what I call our four walls with players, coaches and staff. I think our team did a really good job of blocking out outside noise that didn’t directly affect them. I think the biggest thing was seeing how we competed in close ball games. We never quit. We always found a way to scratch and claw and compete and found a way to be in it. I thing along the way we gained some confidence and started playing with some confidence. I still think our young men feel they can play with anybody and we can. Our we where we want to be yet? No. The bell cow in Division IV is OCS. We want to reach that. I think we are headed in a direction to do that. Hats off to our seniors for helping establish what we want to build.

Q: What are your thoughts on next year and what you have coming back?

A: I am extremely excited. I feel if we can stay healthy and have a few things go our way that we can have a lot of success. Scheduling plays a part in that. Obviously, Class A is late with all the changes to the district. We are trying to schedule games and not a whole lot is left out there. We will have to pick up some games against higher classification which is always a challenge in itself. I think these kids will compete and play against anybody and have a belief that they can do that. I believe if we can stay together and continue to grow and stay injury free that this could be a special year.

2021 Results

St. Frederick Lost, 7-6

Delhi Won, 38-6

Ouachita Christian Lost, 33-22

River Oaks Won, 54-7

Sicily Island Won, 51-6

Jonesboro-Hodge Lost, 28-26

Oak Grove Won, 13-9

Delta Charter Won, 57-0

Tensas Won, 49-0

OCS Lost, 35-7

2021 Statistics Leaders

Passing

Caden Middleton              100-157-3 for 1,398 yards and 23 TDs

Rushing

Jed Worthey                      124-751 yards and 6 TDs

Lane Thomas                     35-188 yards and 3 TDs

Austin Webb                     10-140 yards and 2 TDs

Caden Middleton              31-109 yards and 2 TDs

AJ Thomas                         17-81 yards and 3 TDs

Receiving

Ladd Thompson                26-512 yards and 5 TDs

Bryce Rushing                   30-283 yards and 7 TDs

Lane Thomas                     21-292 and 7 TDs

Tackles

Carson Riley                       89 tackles (54 solo, 35 assists), 4 TFL, 2 sacks

Quincy Lewis                      89 tackles (72 solo, 17 assists), 13 TFL, 1 sack

Lawson Lillo                        79 tackles (45 solo, 34 assists), 10 TFL, 3 sacks

AJ Thomas                         53 tackles (39 solo, 14 assists), 18 TFL, 5 sacks

Bryce Rushing                    47 tackles (30 solo, 17 assists), 8 TFL, 2 sacks

Seth Smith                         47 tackles (34 solo, 13 assists), 10 TFL, 1 sack

Jed Worthey                      44 tackles (36 solo, 6 assists), 2 Interceptions


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