Leader Blues

Monday, November 13, 2006

SPORTS >>Razorbacks roll Red Devils

IN SHORT: Texarkana took advantage of several Jacksonville turnovers to defeat the Red Devils in the opening round of state.

Leader sports writer

Texarkana – Five Jacksonville turnovers was the major difference between victory and defeat against the Texarkana Razorbacks in a 40-6 blowout Friday night at Century 7 Stadium in the first round of the 6A state playoffs.

Senior quarterback Daniel Hubb-ard was picked off three times by the Razorback secondary, senior tailback Justin Akins fumbled on the second Red Devil drive of the night, and Senior receiver Norvel Gabriel had a completed pass break free from his grasp as he hit the turf early in the third quarter.

Hubbard’s interceptions were especially painful for Jacksonville. All three were returned into the Jack-sonville red zone, two of them inside the 5-yard line.

“You can’t make mistakes, you have to come out and execute,” Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley said. “You have to play consistent football, and we didn’t do that.” Despite the disappointment of one sub-par game, Whatley was quick to recognize the tremendous effort from his team, in particular his seniors this season.

“I’m awfully proud of this football team,” Whatley said. “They have overcome tremendous odds and adversity. They have laid the groundwork for some things that we can build on. One day, when we look back on all of this, we can realize how much they overcame; more than a lot of people realize.”

Texarkana head coach Bill Keopple was more than pleased with his teams dynamic playoff performance.

“We’ve been a little bit spoiled, the way we’ve executed offensively,” Keopple said. “We didn’t convert after that first interception, which was frustrating, but aside from that, I thought the execution was good.”

Jacksonville’s only score came too little too late. Texarkana put the game into mercy-rule status with 4:36 left in the game.

A 5-yard touchdown run from Derrick Wesley made the score 40-0 when the Red Devils finally put together a complete drive. Both Hubbard and the senior receivers looked the best they had all night, refusing to succumb to a shut out.

Hubbard hit Blake Mattison for an 18 yard completion, followed by a another chunk to Mattison for 11 yards while the clock ticked down under two minutes. Marcus King then got his only reception of the night, good for 15 yards to give the Red Devils first and goal at the Razorback 6-yard line. Hubbard then closed the deal with a 6-yard scramble up the middle.

Hubbard, traditionally considered as more of a pure passer, put the juke on Texarkana linebacker Charles Hill, spinning around at the 1-yard line before making his way across the goal line with 17 seconds left in the game to set the final margin.

Texarkana struck early and often in the game, both offensively and defensively. After a touchdown run from junior tailback Dennis Johnson, the Razorbacks got the ball right back at the Jacksonville 36-yard line off an Akins fumble, and got to the end zone five plays later for the score with 4:24 left in the first quarter.

The second quarter was a wash for both clubs, and the Razor-backs took their 13-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Red Devils looked like they were going to put themselves back in the game at the start of the third quarter, stopping Texarkana on the first drive of the second half. The offense took over at their own 21-yard line, and began to move the ball.

The second play of the drive would be the turning point of the game. Hubbard hit Gabriel up the middle for a 20 yard completion, but as Gabriel was brought to the ground, the ball popped right into the hands of Wesley, who took it down to the Jacksonville 3-yard line.

Another Hubbard pass was picked off by Ke’air Dennis at the Texarkana 2-yard line and returned 98 yards for the score with 3:18 left to go in the third quarter. The Razorbacks last two drives were on the ground, with Wesley punching in his second and third touchdowns of the night. His final run into the end zone with 4:36 remaining put Texarkana up by 40 points, and sent the clock rolling.

Hubbard was 14 of 31 passing for 180 yards and three interceptions. For Texarkana, Johnson rushed 25 times for 101 yards and a touchdown.