Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

SPORTS >>Badgers, Bulldogs unfamiliar

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

John Shannon’s Beebe Badgers and Rick Jones’ Greenwood Bulldogs run two completely different offenses. The Badgers run a tight, low, compact dead- T formation, while Jones’ two-time defending state champion Bulldogs spread it out and throw the ball about 90 percent of the time.

That made it interesting when both coaches described their team’s experience against the other’s system. Neither team has played against anyone that runs quite what the other runs, but when describing the closest thing they’ve seen, both said precisely, “The closest we’ve seen is Vilonia.”

Huh?

It is actually true. Vilonia started the season running the spread offense, but went back to the double wing that it had run the previous few years at about the mid-point of the season.

The Eagles spread it out against Beebe, and ran the wing against Greenwood.

The initial confusion aside, neither team has really faced a good comparison to what Beebe will be facing this Friday night near the Oklahoma border.

“Vilonia ran out of it a lot more than Greenwood does,” Shannon said. “Greenwood goes downfield with it quite a bit. They throw it probably 85 to 90 percent of the time.”

Jones remarked, “They run that double wing and try to confuse you. Beebe just lines up and runs right at you. It’s a very manly style of football. You’d better be ready for a fight.”

Another ironic similarity between the two coaches’ keys is that both harped on maintaining assignments.

“You have to be physical and try to match how physical they are,” Jones said. “You also have to be where you’re supposed to be. You can’t get out of position or get blown off the ball.”

Being blown off the ball is one of Jones’ biggest concerns. He has his scout team simulating Beebe’s offense, but knows it won’t match Beebe’s style.

“That’s the thing that’s so unique about what they do,” Jones said. “Pad level is so important, and it’s a chore trying to make our guys understand just how low they’ll be coming off that ball. It’s very difficult. They present a ton of trouble for you.”
While Jones is impressed with Beebe’s line, he’s also impressed with the running backs.

“The whole offense executes so well. When I watch tapes, they blow you off the ball, but the backs run so hard. They hit the hole hard, and they don’t need a whole lot of hole to get good yardage on you. They always seem to fall forward, and a 5-10 guy falling forward is two more yards. They’re well coached and we’re expecting a battle.”

Beebe looks at Greenwood’s team and doesn’t see any major mismatches. The Badgers size up fairly evenly with the favored Bulldogs, much more evenly than they did against at least one of the team’s that beat them.

“I don’t see any big mismatches anywhere,” Shannon said. “They’re not as big as Blytheville, but I don’t know if anybody out there is. If there is a team out there bigger than them, I don’t want to see ‘em. Greenwood has good size, and good speed, but I don’t think we’re overmatched anywhere. I think it’s going to come down to which team executes the best.”

Execution is something the Badgers didn’t do well at times in last week’s 23-20 loss to Batesville, a game that came down to a field goal with nine seconds left that lifted the Pioneers to victory.

Beebe lost two fumbles in that game that led directly to Batesville points. That, according to Shannon, must be eliminated for his team to win Friday.

“We’ve got to hang onto the ball,” Shannon said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times. We’ve got to quit beating ourselves.

Shannon is under no illusion that his team will completely shut down the high-powered Greenwood offense. He does think his team can minimize Greenwood’s chances to score.

If we hang onto the ball, keep their offense off the field and score every time we’ve got, we’ve got a good chance,” Shannon said. “I don’t know if you can stop that offense, but you can slow them down. It’s sort of a situation where our best defense could be our offense.”

Greenwood has enjoyed a pair of easy first-round playoff games the last two seasons. Jones isn’t expecting that this week.
“This is a two versus a three, so I don’t think there’s much difference,” Jones said. “The last two years we were a one against a four. I know in our league there wasn’t much difference between one and five. I know they took Batesville to the wire and we had all we wanted of them last year. This is going to be a tough game.”

Jones thinks his team could make it easier if it finally hits its stride, but he isn’t sure when that will take place.

“I just get a sense that we haven’t hit but on about six cylinders this year instead of eight,” Jones said. “Now is the time to change that. You have to go into these playoff games with an urgency and a sense of finality. Hopefully we can do that and starting playing well.”