Leader Blues

Monday, October 16, 2006

SPORTS >>Devils cruise on homecoming

Leader sportswriter

In their most complete offensive effort all season, the Jacksonville Red Devils topped Searcy on homecoming night 41-15 at Jan Crow Stadium Friday night to boost their record to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the 6A-East conference.

Both teams moved the ball well throughout the game; Searcy finished with 350 yards to Jacksonville’s 388 yards. The difference in the game was Searcy turnovers during critical moments in the first half and also in the second. The Lions were driving to tie the game in the second quarter after the Red Devils scored early on, but a pass from Justin Rowden intended for Matt Cramblett was intercepted by Red Devils junior linebacker Cameron Hood. Hood returned the ball all the way to the Searcy 12-yard line, setting up the second Jacksonville touchdown of the night.

Searcy’s last gasp was a drive that began with 2:28 left in the third quarter and went 14 seconds into the fourth. The Lions drove from their own 29-yard line to the Red Devils 12 in less than three minutes. A face mask call against Jacksonville gave Searcy a first down in the Red Devils red zone, but Rowden panicked under pressure during the next play, throwing into a gaggle of Jacksonville defenders in the end zone. Senior Eric Berry grabbed the pass to give the Red Devils a touchback with possession at their own 20.

Neither team displayed much offense from that point on, save for a 64-yard touchdown run for Lee Robinson with 4:12 left in the game to set the final margin for Jacksonville. For Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley, it was a performance he expected from the defense, and a performance he had hoped to see offensively.

That’s something we’ve been lacking and needed to do,” Whatley said. “But once again, our offense scores and then (Cameron) Hood comes away with a big pick for us, and swings the momentum back our way. Our defense has created turnovers for us all year. Hopefully, they will continue to do it; it’s that time of the year, but we are glad to be in the position that we are in.”

Searcy coach Bart McFarland was upbeat after the loss, and praised the performance of wounded starting quarterback Justin Rowden. Rowden played the entire game with a separated shoulder, an injury that has kept him off the practice field for over a month and out of last week’s game against West Memphis.

“It’s a gutsy performance for a kid that’s playing with a separated shoulder,” McFarland said. “I wish we could’ve had all of our guns, but we didn’t. Jacksonville has a very potent offense, and that puts a lot of pressure on your defense. We were just going to make it as long a game as possible; I thought we did a pretty good job against a very good team. We had a couple of missed plays here and there, but we have to forget about it and keep on fighting.”

Jacksonville did not make it out of the game unscathed. Standout senior tailback Justin Akins was injured during a play in the second quarter, and was taken to the hospital for tests. Lee Robinson took up the slack for Akins, racking up 240 all-purpose yards. The senior running back finished with 13 carries for 133 yards rushing, and had four receptions for another 107 yards. In all, Robinson crossed the goal line on three different occasions for the Red Devils to lead offensively in the game.

Jacksonville scored in the first two minutes of the game. Devils QB Daniel Hubbard found a wide-open Terrell L’Herisse from 25 yards out for the score on an in-route pass dead center of the hashes at the 10:08 mark of the first quarter. Manuel Alvidrez connected on the extra-point to give Jacksonville an early 7-0 lead.

Hood’s interception put the Red Devils on the Searcy 12-yard line, and in need of only three plays to bust through the goal line again. It was Akins who plowed in from two-yards out for the score. Another kick from Alvidrez made it 14-0 and put Searcy on the spot for a score to stay in contention.

That score would come at the 2:06 mark of the second quarter on a 14-yard pass from Rowden to Adam Robertson up the middle. Will Gibbs added the extra point to close the Jacksonville lead to 14-7, but the Red Devils were not content to go into the locker room with a mere seven-point lead.

It only took 57 seconds for Jacksonville to answer, on a six-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 28 yard TD pass from Hubbard to Robinson with 1:09 left in the half. That would put the Devils up at halftime 21-7.

Robinson scored again to start the second half, on a 13-yard run for six points at the 6:15 mark of the third quarter. Alvidrez’ extra point attempt was blocked by John Moore, and the score stayed at 27 -7. Searcy’s final score of the game occurred with 4:42 left in the third quarter on a screen from Rowden to DeMarco Brown on the left side. Brown scrambled 14-yards for the touchdown, and a fake extra point in which holder Matt Cramblett threw to Brown for two points made it 27-15.

As with the earlier Searcy score, the Red Devils answered, this time with a 75-yard drive that only took six plays and 2:14 of time. Hubbard finished off the drive with a sneak from two-yards out, but Robinson handled the bulk of the yardage on the drive. A long pass from Hubbard to Robinson was good for 42 yards to start out the drive, and Robinson then moved it into the Searcy red zone off a screen pass that he took 22 yards down to the Lions 5-yard line.

Hubbard was 12 for 25 passing for 214 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Rowden finished 21 for 42 passing for 228 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for Searcy. The loss keeps Searcy’s record winless at 0-7 overall and 0-4 in conference.

Jacksonville will travel to Forrest City next week, while the Lions will host Jonesboro.