Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

SPORTS >>Badgers set for real test

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers were still floating when they arrived for Saturday’s practice after coming from 29 points down to topple high-octane Vilonia the night before.

By Monday, though, it was back to business, and the Badgers began preparation for their first conference road game. Beebe makes the long road trip to Paragould this Friday to take on the Paragould High Rams.

Paragould won its opener, an annual non-conference affair with crosstown rival Greene County Tech, easily. Things haven’t gone as well since. The Rams were soundly beaten in week two by Pocahontas, then lost a heartbreaker to Trumann 16-12 last week.

Scores don’t always tell the whole story, and that’s what Beebe coach John Shannon believes about his team’s opponent this week.

Paragould gives opponents many things to prepare for. So when asked what the Rams do offensively, Shannon replied, “The question is, what do they not do? Watching film of two of their games, we saw them in about 29 different formations.”
So change the question to what do they do well?

“They run the ball pretty good,” Shannon said. “Their running back is a good back and their quarterback is a good runner. They’ve got a big ol’ offensive line, so that’s what we’re expecting. We’re expecting them to do what they’ve done well.”

Shannon also doesn’t count on Paragould making the amount of mistakes it made in its first few games. He believes if they play mistake-free ball, the Rams are dangerous.

“In the games they lost they turned the ball over a bunch of times,” Shannon said. “We can’t go in there expecting that though, we have to be ready for their best. When they’ve held on to the ball, they haven’t looked bad.”

Paragould coach Brian Carter agrees.

“We’ve moved the ball between the 20s,” Carter said. “We’ve just got to be able to put the ball in the end zone better than we have. We have to shore up some things in the kicking game too because that cost us last week.”

Paragould took a safety on a bad punt snap while trailing by two points to Trumann.

For Carter, the biggest task this week is to prepare his team for an offense that most of his players have never faced.

“They’re physical and they’re playing well,” Carter said of the Badgers. “They’re running an outstanding system that not that many people are running anymore. We’ve played spread teams so far, so it’s difficult to turn around and play that style. It’s a different mindset. We show the kids film, show them two or three things that Beebe’s doing well and try to stop it. It’ll be an adjustment. I don’t know if our kids are tough enough to stand up play that smashmouth style, but we’ll find out Friday.”

For all the accolades that comes with rallying from 29 points down, there’s still a reality to deal with, the reality of having fallen behind by 29 points. Beebe gave up 41 points in the first half alone last week, and that’s something that will have any coach anxious to fix some wrongs.

Shannon, though, believes he and his staff have spotted what went wrong.

“We’re just going to go back and hit fundamentals real hard,” Shannon said. “That was our problem the other night, we just didn’t tackle. We had people around the ball, but no one would make the tackle.”

Offensively, Shannon has little to complain about. His team has shown signs of significant improvement each week, and it culminated in Friday’s thrilling comeback.

“Friday night was kind of our coming out party offensively,” Shannon said. “The first two games I think the defense carried us. We were starting to get better on offense, but Friday we really put things together. (Fullback) Sammy Williams is figuring out where he’s supposed to hit the hole, and he’s running harder. He’s figuring out his role in this offense. I’m just real pleased with the progress and hopefully we can continue to get better.”

Progress will have to continue now that the real season is at hand, the part of the season when wins and losses make and break playoff hopes.

Shannon is pleased with what his team has shown so far, but knows it’s not as important as how they play in the games ahead, starting this week.

“We’ve accomplished a lot and I’m very proud of my kids,” Shannon said. But nothing we’ve done in the first three weeks will matter if we don’t carry it over into the important part of the season.”