SPORTS >>Red Devils hold on
By JASON KING
Leader staff writer
The Red Devils could do no wrong in the first half, scoring on all five possessions.
All the wrongdoings would come in the second half.
Jacksonville held off North Pulaski 37-18 at Jan Crow Stadium in Jacksonville Friday night, in a game that was supposed to be all Red Devils. It was for the first 24 minutes, but a key turnover by JHS and a long scoring run from NP quarterback-slash-tailback Stanley Appleby turned a Jacksonville blowout into a halfway competitive game by the fourth quarter.
The Falcons were actually knocking on the door again in the final minutes of the game, with first and goal at the Red Devil 2-yard line. A fumble from NP tailback Charles Baker was pounced on by Jacksonville outside-lineman Nick Wilson at the 6-yard line to cancel the scoring opportunity, allowing the ‘Devils to run out the clock on the ground with runs from Justin Akins and Lee Robinson.
For Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley, the clock couldn’t have hit zero any sooner.
“In the first half, I felt like we played pretty good, we got some good plays out of our receivers,” Whatley said. “I’ll tell you this, in the second half, we just went out there and went through the motions on both sides of the football. You just can’t do that. North Pulaski went out there and fought their guts out the whole ball game. They never quit, never gave up, never died down. We’re going to have to get a lot better.”
The tide turned against Jack-sonville with 38 seconds left in the third quarter. The Red Devils had just moved into North Pulaski territory on the heels of a 20-yard pass from Daniel Hubbard to Marcus King. A personal foul penalty against North Pulaski added another 15 for the ‘Devils, putting the ball at the Falcons’ 31.
It looked like it would be another routine drive for Jacksonville, until the following play. Hubbard completed the pass to Terrell L’Herisse at the NP 20, but L’Herisse coughed it up on the left sideline. Falcons senior cornerback Alex Thomas scooped it up and took it back all the way for the score, putting the score at 37-18, which would end up as the final margin.
The Falcons nearly came away with a score in the final five minutes of the game. They took over at their own 34 with 9:59 remaining, and slowly moved downfield. NP went 64 yards in eight plays, putting the ball at the Red Devils 2-yard line with 4:52 left on the clock before the first Falcons turnover of the game called it off.
“We missed some tackles in the second half,” Whatley said. “But offensively, we didn’t go out there and put some things away like we should have. We turned the ball over and let them run it back all the way; that gives them a shot in the arm. You look up, and it’s an 18-point ballgame, and then you’ve got a fight on your hands.”
The first half was not near as dramatic for the Red Devils. Five possessions yielded five touchdowns for Jacksonville in the first two quarters. Hubbard had all day back in the pocket, completing 11 of 13 attempts for 244 yards and four touchdowns.
The first possession for Jacksonville took five plays and two minutes, finished off with a 16-yard run from Akins for the score. Manuel Alvidrez missed four out of five point-after attempts for the ‘Devils, preventing a mercy-rule situation on the Falcons, including the first attempt after Akins’ TD run.
The next drive resulted in a touchdown after only three plays for Jacksonville. Hubbard hit L’Herisse on the Falcons’ 40-yard line, and L’Herisse sprinted in from there for a 68-yard touchdown play to put the Red Devils up by 12. King snagged a 40-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the opening quarter to put the Red Devils up by 18. Alvidrez added his only PAT of the night to add one to the scoreboard.
The Falcons put an impressive drive together to start the second quarter. Jordan Anderson set NP up with good field position to start out the drive, returning Alvidrez’s kick to the Falcons’ 37-yard line. Appleby and company took over from there, going 63 yards in 12 plays and 5:57 for the first North Pulaski score of the night. The drive was capped off by a three yard run by Melvin Tenner up the middle for the score. Jeffery Bogard’s point-after attempt was wide right, keeping the score 19-6.
The Red Devils scored two more times before the half, the first TD off a 29-yard pass from Hubbard to Akins, and the second off an 11-yard pass to L’Herisse from Hubbard to give the ‘Devils a commanding 31-6 lead at halftime.
It would have been easy for the Falcons to lie down and die in the second half and wait for the mercy rule, but they did just the opposite. North Pulaski came out with fire in the last two quarters, taking a relaxed and eased Red Devils squad by complete surprise.
The Red Devils would strike first at the 5:27 mark of the third quarter with a 34-yard pass from Hubbard to Blake Mattison for the score. Mattison split NP defenders Bryan Thurman and Thomas in the end zone, and Hubbard hit him on the numbers right between the two. Though no one would have guessed it at the time, it would be the last score for Jacksonville in the entire contest.
The North Pulaski rally started with 1:10 left in the third. Appleby was moved to tailback, while Mich-ael Fleshman moved under center in his place. One handoff to Appleby was all it took, as the sophomore standout started out to his left, but cut back to his right as he crossed the line of scrimmage. Fleshman threw an incredible block at about the Jacksonville 38, and Appleby coasted the rest of the way in for a 66-yard TD run.
Jacksonville finished with 504 yards of total offense. 305 yards came in the first half, compared to 199 in the second.
Hubbard was 17 for 26 for 326 yards and five touchdowns. Akins rushed 11 times for 99 yards and a touchdown and had one catch for 29 yards and a score. L’Herisse made five receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
North Pulaski had 283 yards of total offense in the game. Appleby carried 10 times for 114 yards and a touchdown, and completed 3 of 5 pass attempts for 46 yards.
Jacksonville will travel to Lake Hamilton to face the Wolves next week, while North Pulaski heads to Lonoke.