Van Buren won its first road playoff game in 24 years last week.


Friday, they’ll head down Interstate-40 for another long road trip in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs to Marion in far east Arkansas.


Van Buren (4-7) advanced after beating Jonesboro, 37-14, last week. Jonesboro was the second seed out of the 6A-East.


Marion (3-7) advanced after Benton was forced to forfeit for a rash of Covid-related absences.


Here are five keys to Friday’s second-round playoff game for the Pointers and Patriots:


HOW’D THEY GET HERE


The Pointers won at Jonesboro, 37-14, to open the Class 6A playoffs.


Van Buren advanced to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs after winning its first road playoff game since a cold, rainy Friday after Thanksgiving in 1996 when the Pointers won at El Dorado, 14-6, the week before winning the state championship the next week.


"Actually getting a playoff win for the program is a big deal for us," Van Buren head coach Crosby Tuck said. "It was a fun one. It was a really big win for us."


Marion was scheduled to travel to Benton, which forfeited midway of the week due to Covid-related concerns.


KEY MATCH-UP


Van Buren’s secondary versus Marion’s passing attack.


The Pointers had five interceptions last week with two each by brothers Jaiden and Chi Henry and a one-handed stab by Baylor Shook in the fourth quarter against Jonesboro.


"I read out of a blitz," Shook said. "I was supposed to be blitzing. The last second, I saw it out of the corner of my eye.


"I stuck my arm out and got a piece of it. It kind of rolled perfectly into my hands."


All five of the picks were in the second half when the Pointers completely stymied the Hurricanes.


Dylan Barlow had seven tackles, including a tackle for loss and a sack. T.J. Dyer had seven tackles, four for loss and 3-1/2 sacks. Braxton Dorrough had seven tackles with one for loss.


KEY TO VICTORY


For the Pointers, another sequence like they had late in the second quarter to early in the third quarter.


Van Buren lost a fumble deep in its end of the field, but Jaiden Henry blocked a field goal and the Pointers went down to kick a field goal of their own from 32 yards out by Jose Zarate to take a 24-14 halftime lead.


"Mentally, it was a huge sequence for us to go in with a two-possession lead and be up more than just one score," Tuck said. "We felt like we had a little bit of leeway there.


"That was huge for our guys’ attitude at halftime, and their energy. It changed the way they believed at that point. The mental swing of it meant more than the points did, the way it skyrocketed us momentum-wise. It was the best halftime attitude that I’ve seen out of our guys all season."


On Jonesboro’s opening possession of the second half, Chi Henry had a long interception return to Jonesboro’s 10. Quarterback Gary Phillips scored to bump Van Buren’s lead to 31-14.


"Take that momentum we started with, and it shot us up again," Tuck said. "From that point on, our defense played really, really well, probably the best I’ve seen us play with the way we were flying around.


"The speed we were playing with just looked different. The energy was so high from that series of events from the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter."


For Marion, it’s playing defense like they did against Sylvan Hills when the Patriots defeated the Bears, 10-7, on the first Friday night of October. It was Sylvan Hills’ only conference loss as the Bears went on to the conference championship.


BALANCE


The Pointers had their most balanced offensive performance since September’s 35-0 win over Alma when they ran for 201 yards and passed for 204.


Last Friday, Van Buren had a season-high 47 rushing attempts, paced by Dominic Galvan’s 23 carries for 81 yards.


"Anytime that I have a good game, it helps the team, not only the offense but also the defense because it helps keep them fresh," Galvan said. "The last game, I felt like I could have done better.


"Coming into this game, I felt like I really needed to improve my game from last week."


PLAYERS TO WATCH


Marion’s Daedrick Cail was one of the top junior quarterbacks in the state last year when he completed 181-of-304 passes for 2,695 yards and 30 touchdowns.


Cail, who signed last week to play college baseball at Arkansas State, also went over the 2,000-yard mark as a sophomore when he threw for 2,336 yards and 24 scores.


This year, without the top four receivers from last year who graduated, Cail has thrown for just 1,326 yards and eight touchdowns.


"He’s one of the guys that’s been one of the better ones in his class," Van Buren defensive coordinator Moe Henry said. "He was called on to play a lot of snaps as a sophomore. We’ll prepare for the best version of him."


Cail’s 6,357 career passing yards rank him second among quarterbacks in the state this season behind only Benton’s Garrett Brown, who finished with 8,007.


TODAY’S TICKET


Van Buren at Marion


Time: 7 p.m.


Records: Van Buren 4-7, 1-6 6A-West; Marion 3-7, 2-4 6A-East


Rankings: Neither team is ranked.


Last week: Van Buren defeated Jonesboro, 37-19; Marion won by forfeit over Benton.


Last meeting: Have never met.