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story.lead_photo.caption Central Arkansas junior running back Carlos Blackman (right) promised the Bears’ best effort today against Abilene Christian. “We want a winning season,” Blackman said. “We want to send the seniors out with a winning season. We want to be 6-5. We don’t want to be 5-6, and there’s a huge difference.”

CONWAY -- The University of Central Arkansas hasn't had a losing record since 2009 and has had only three through this millennium.

With the 2018 season ending today, UCA (5-5, 4-4 Southland Conference) is currently riding a three-game losing streak. Consequently, its players and coaches, know what's at stake in Abilene, Texas, against Abilene Christian.

"We've put ourselves in this situation, and we have to get ourselves out of it," UCA Coach Nathan Brown said. "We could blame a lot of different scenarios and situations, but football is football. Tough times happen. It's a humbling sport. We have a lot to play for and that's for our program. We can get to six wins, a winning season, and I think we're up to the challenge."

Kickoff at Wildcat Stadium is scheduled for 2 p.m.

It didn't take long for UCA redshirt freshman quarterback Luke Hales to recognize the significance of his team's game in Abilene. Twenty minutes after the Bears' 40-27 loss to Incarnate Word last Saturday, Hales said a winning result is an important target.

"All we can do is play the next play, practice the next practice," Hales said. "We're not happy with our record, but we're going to win the next game. That's the game plan. Coach Brown said, 'We're going to win the game,' and I believe it."

Right guard Curtis Parker, in his fifth year at UCA, is among 17 seniors playing his last game for the Bears. A North Little Rock graduate, Parker redshirted as a freshman in 2014. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in business in the spring and is currently working on a master's of business administration. Like most of UCA's starters, Parker still hopes for an opportunity to play professional football, but knows that chance is unlikely.

"Back in high school, my parents always said, 'Have a Plan B, and a Plan C,' " Parker said. "Anything can happen. There's very little chance of even Division I players making it to the pros, so it's important that you have something in mind that you can do the rest of your life outside of football.

"If I was to ever get the opportunity to play more, of course I would take it, because I love the sport, but if it doesn't come, I'm fine with that. I've had good success with the game, but I'm prepared to move on."

"For 17 guys, really and truly this will probably be the final game they play," Brown said. "We may have a guy or two that gets a shot, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll get to play in a [professional] game. We have one more chance to really give it all we've got. My message to the younger guys was, 'Let's find a way to send these guys out winners.' My message to the seniors was, 'Don't think it's over.'"

From 2015-18 UCA is 32-14, with a conference championship last season and consecutive Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances the last two. Parker had hoped for a run of similar success from the previous three seasons but said he knows the importance of one more victory.

"It's an important game," Parker said. "We all know that, and we're going to give it our best effort. That's all we can do."

Brown knows Abilene Christian (6-4, 5-3), winners of its last four games will provide a challenge.

"I don't know that they're great in any one area, but they're good at everything," Brown said. "Their offense and defense are solid. They're going to play clean football. They're not going to turn the ball over, but at the end of the day, we've got a lot of good football players on our team, and we've just got to come together one more time and figure out a way to win this football game."

UCA junior running back Carlos Blackman promised his and his teammates' best effort.

"We want a winning season," Blackman said. "We want to send the seniors out with a winning season. We want to be 6-5. We don't want to be 5-6, and there's a huge difference."

Sports on 11/17/2018

Print Headline: Today final hurrah for UCA seniors


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