SPORTS >>Badgers, Chicks for top spot
Leader sports editor
North Pulaski will be short-handed when it travels to Paragould this Friday night to take on the Rams, and the loss is a big one. Starting tailback Melvin Tenner will have to miss the trip to Greene County due to being ejected, controversially, from last week’s game against Batesville. Any ejection also carries an automatic one-game suspension, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for the Falcons.
North Pulaski, 1-2 in conference play with both losses coming to co-leaders Beebe and Batesville, wouldn’t be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, but its chances would diminish.
With three teams, Batesville, Beebe and Blytheville, still unbeaten in league play, all three are in good position to make the playoffs, leaving just one spot for the remaining four teams. NP already has a leg up on Greene County Tech, so wins over Paragould, Wynne and Nettleton will put NP in the playoffs with no help needed. A loss this week likely means the Falcons will need some help to get into the playoffs.
Falcon coach Tony Bohannon understands the magnitude of a win this week.
“We need this one,” Bohannon said. “The kids are aware of it too, if they aren’t they will be because they’ll be hearing it all week. I also think this is a very winnable ball game. We just have to play smart and pick up the slack from not having Melvin out there.”
Those duties will likely fall to a pair of sophomores.
A.J. Stephens has come on strong at running back recently. Josh Molden is also a talented back that will get some carries in Tenner’s place. Neither back as Tenner’s size, but both are similar in speed.
“Stephens has run the ball quite a bit the last two weeks,” Bohannon said. “He’s looked pretty good. Molden could help us out a whole lot too. There are still some things he needs to work on. He got out here late, so that’s holding him back a little bit.”
Anthony Bizzell can also step in at tailback. He has played almost exclusively at fullback on offense, but could handle the tailback duties in a pinch.
“He don’t have the speed some of the other ones have, but he knows the plays and can run pretty well,” Bohannon said.
Aside from the running game, North Pulaski’s passing has looked better in recent weeks. The Falcons were able to complete some plays for good yardage against Batesville last week, and may look to take to the air a little more this Friday against Paragould.
“We were able to do some things that we’d been wanting to do,” Bohannon said. “The blocking has been better, and (quarterback A.J.) Allen is throwing the ball a lot better. The big thing is the line. The offensive line has been improving each week.”
Bohannon didn’t have a clear grasp of what Paragould likes to do most. The Rams are extremely versatile, so the game plan this week is to try to prepare the Falcons for everything they may see.
“It’s hard to say what they do best,” Bohannon said. “The film I watched, it looked like they try to do everything in the book. Against us, I’d say they’re probably going to try to run it at us, but it’s hard to say. We just have to get ready for a little bit of everything.”