SPORTS >>Devils claw way to win
By JOHNNY RAY LAKE
Special to the Leader
Two defensive touchdowns on Mountain Home turnovers lifted the Red Devils over the Bombers 22-12 Friday night. Shawn Alexander returned a fumble for Jacksonville 30 yards just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter to give the Red Devils their first lead of the game. Three minutes later, with Mountain Home driving from their own 10-yard line, Lee Robinson intercepted a pass from Mountain Home quarterback Zach Hawthorne and returned it 30 yards to give Jacksonville a 10-point lead with 1:49 left in the game.
The visiting Bombers seemed to have control of the game going into the fourth quarter leading 12-0. On fourth down and four at the Bomber 26, Jacksonville failed to convert, and the Bombers took over with 6:30 left in the game. But three plays later, Bomber running back Jim Houser fumbled and Alexander returned it for a touchdown. Daniel Hubbard passed to Norvel Gabriel for the two-point conversion to give Jacksonville a 15-12 lead. The Bomber sideline was upset about the score, as they felt that Houser was down before the fumble occurred. Mountain Home was unsettled at this point, as on their very next offensive play, Jacksonville’s defense caused another fumble by running back Jacob Hanson. But Mountain Home held and forced Jacksonville to punt with 2:41 left in the game with the Red Devils holding a three- point lead. And four plays later, Jacksonville put the game away with the Robinson interception returned for a touchdown.
The first half belonged to Mountain Home, as they controlled the clock and pounded the running game at Jacksonville, calling 31 running plays to only one passing play in the first two quarters. The Bombers took a 6-0 lead with 3:15 left in the first quarter capping a 14-play, 66-yard drive with their first possession that ended in a Hawthorne sneak from the one. Jake Young’s extra-point attempt was no good as it sailed wide left. After stopping Jacksonville on fourth down and three from the Bomber 24-yard line, the two teams exchanged punts. With 6:24 left in the first half, the Bombers took over at their own 15 yard line.
A 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Jacksonville gave the Bombers first and 10 from the Red Devil 44-yard line. William Dyer took a handoff up the middle for a 44-yard scamper for the touchdown, and after failing on the two-point conversion, Mountain Home led 12-0.
On the very next offensive play, Jacksonville quarterback found Marcus King for a 50-yard pass play setting up first and ten from the Bomber 25 with less than four minutes remaining in the first half. After an incomplete pass on first down, Justin Akins ran 21 yards down to the Bomber 4-yard line, setting up first and goal.
Jacksonville stumbled, however, as a loss of two yards on a quarterback keeper, an offsides penalty on the Red Devils, and two incomplete pass attempts in the end zone kept the Red Devils trailing at the half 12-0.
Mountain Home returned the kickoff in the second half out to their own 41-yard line. On fourth and eight from the Jacksonville 36, the Bombers gambled and took a five-yard delay penalty to give their punter more room to pin Jacksonville deep.
The gamble paid off as Jacksonville started their first drive of the second half from their own 1-yard line. The Red Devils drove to the Bomber 40-yard line before a sack stalled the drive and forced Jacksonville to punt. The Jacksonville defense began their second half domination as a three-and-out forced the Bombers to punt on their next possession. Jacksonville then drove 56 yards down to the Bomber 8-yard line to end the third quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Justin Akins rumbled for an eight-yard touchdown run to get the Red Devils on the board for their first points of the game.
The extra point was good and Jacksonville trailed by five early in the final period. The Jacksonville defense, led by senior Alexander, forced three and out on the next Bomber possession.
After failing on fourth and four on the Bomber 26-yard line, the defense caused three turnovers in the next nine Bomber offensive plays, returning two for touchdowns to complete the comeback win for the Red Devils.
Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley was quick to give credit to his defense as well as his defensive coaches.
“Coach Russell and coach Burrows have done a phenomenal job with the defense the last two weeks,” he said. “The defense took over in the second half pure and simple, and continue to come up with big plays,” he added.
When asked if he was surprised that Mountain Home came out running after they had passed so much in their last game, he responded “Not really. Teams hang their hat on their philosophy, and last week Mountain Home seemed to be searching for their identity. But we knew that coming in here for their first conference game, they would get back to their philosophy, which is the running game.” Coach Whatley added that in preparation for next week’s game against Jonesboro, his team would “have to get back to the basics.” We can’t continue to live and die by the big play,” he said.
Akins led the Red Devils with 150 yards and one score on 21 carries. Hubbard was 12 out of 24 passing with 144 yards. Jacksonville finished the game with 335 total yards, and 191 came on the ground.
Dyer led the Bombers with 145 yards rushing on 19 carries, but was held to 45 yards in the second half as the Red Devil defense clamped down. The Bombers finished with three turnovers, all of which came in the last five minutes of the contest. Jacksonville did not turn the ball over in the game.
The Red Devils will host the Hurricane next Friday.