Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

SPORTS >>NP, Lonoke do battle

By RAY BENTON AND JASON KING
Leader sports staff

Lonoke will host North Pulaski for the meeting between the schools that started the series three years ago. Both teams have taken similar paths so far this season. Each team had very disappointing openers, then bounced back to play better in week two, but couldn’t get a win. Lonoke head coach Jeff Jones believes that this year’s Falcons possess more versatility than NP teams of the past. His major concern is with the ground attack from Bohannon’s bunch, a running game that racked up close to 300 yards against Jacksonville last week.

“They have a lot of size up front,” Jones said. “They are a strong running team with a lot of different looks. I think they have the potential to go all the way on any given play.” North Pulaski coach Tony Bohannon knows that Lonoke has a new coach and a new offensive scheme, but is focusing his attention on his own team.

“Right now I’m more worried about us than what other teams are going to do,” Bohannon said. “They’re good and they’re doing some new things over there with the spread. I think playing Jacksonville last week will help us this week against Lonoke. We just have to concentrate on not making things harder for ourselves than they have to be. We’ve had some big old boo boos in both games that have just hurt us too much.”

NP’s biggest mistakes this year have consisted of giving the ball away while sniffing the end zone. There have been several smaller, but equally costly mistakes that have thwarted Falcon drives this year too. “It’s a lot of little things really,” Bohannon said. Although the ‘Rabbits come into Friday’s home opener with a record of 0-2, Jones also says the his team’s performance in week two at Beebe was more solid than the opener at Hot Springs.

“I saw major improvements from game one to game two,” Jones said. “If we can continue to improve like that from week to week, we can be a very good football team. We’ve been good at times and bad at times, we just have to continue to work hard in practice and get more consistent with our fundamentals. We just have to be able to put it all together, and hopefully we can break through.”

The Jackrabbits may have been the victims of bad luck in the closing moments against Beebe, but their luck with the injury bug so far has been fair. The only major injury after two weeks is a broken foot for starting center Jason Smith. “It had been aggravating him for a while,” Jones said. “The Beebe game just topped it off. We have some bumps and bruises, but that is the only big one we have right now. We are still pretty healthy.”

North Pulaski enters the game hoping to continue progress from its second-half effort against Jacksonville. Everything worked better in the second half after giving up big points in the first half against the Red Devils. The defense stiffened up and the offense began executing. Some of that execution can be attributed to moving sophomore athlete Stanley Appleby from quarterback to tailback. Appleby broke a long run for a touchdown to get his team back into the game with Jacksonville.
Sophomore Michael Fleshman will take over most of the quarterback duties. He has performed well in junior varsity games, but will likely still share snaps with Appleby.

“He’s just got to get more comfortable out there,” Bohannon said. “He’s done pretty well in JV, but there’s a big difference in JV and varsity. He has to learn to keep himself under control, and he’s learning.”