Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

SPORTS>> Falcons try to reclaim momentum

Leader sports editor

Crunch the numbers any way you like, it’s going to be another tough, tough challenge for North Pulaski this Friday night when the Falcons travel to Little Rock Christian.

They must shake off the disappointment of a mistake-filled 35-0 loss to Pulaski Oak Grove last Friday, one week after starting the season on a high note against Searcy. In addition, the Falcons must try to overcome several critical injuries from last weekend.

But the biggest challenge North Pulaski will face is the one every teamthat battles Little Rock Christian must contend with: stopping bruising fullback Michael Dyer.

So far, few have succeeded. Oak Grove probably did as well as anybody over the past few seasons, limiting the all-state junior to around 100 yards. The 190-pound running machine amassed more than 2,700 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2007.

“We’ll try to slow him down, just like everybody else does,” said North Pulaski head coach Tony Bohannon. “Morrilton didn’t have much success last week.”

Not unless you consider 309 yards rushing a success. It took Dyer 47 carries to reach that mark, but Christian head coach Johnny Watson said Dyer is fit and ready to go again.

“He’s in great shape,” Watson said. “He got the ball down inside the 20 for us enough to score a bunch of points. But we didn’t do a very good job getting it in the end zone.”

Despite those 309 yards from Dyer and nearly 100 more through the air, the Warriors had to settle for a 13-7 win over the Devil Dogs after stumbling out of the gate with a 21-7 loss to Oak Grove in Week 1.

For Bohannon and the Falcons, it will be a matter of regrouping after a very disappointing showing against the Hornets. North Pulaski turned the ball over four times and struggled to contain the stable of quality Hornet running backs.

“A couple of times we had them stopped and we didn’t wrap up,” Bohannon said. “The defense didn’t take care of business but we had a lot of mental errors.”

The Falcons were driving on their opening possession and turned a second-and-short into a second-and-long with a penalty, then had a bad snap on a punt to add to their woes. Bryan Colson led the Falcons with 78 yards, but North Pulaski got little more from anyone else.

To make matters worse, the Falcons lost offensive linemen Dylan Sheffield with broken ribs. He’ll miss an estimated three weeks. Taylor Cross will move over to take his slot and Zach Barnes will have to rotate to a new slot on the line as well. North Pulaski also lost quarterback A.J. Allen near the end of the first half on Friday to a bruised back. His status is questionable for Friday. Sophomore Derrick McClain stepped in for Allen on Friday.

Little Rock Christian is still trying to recover from the devastating loss of quarterback Griffin Kuhn, who went down in a preseason scrimmage with an ankle injury. Watson admitted that the loss of Kuhn, who was being courted by Baylor and Kansas State, has affected his club.

“Yeah, to go from a guy who’s a Division I prospect to a guy who’s only played quarterback a few plays over the year is a big adjustment,” Watson said of backup Jesse Stone, who completed 10 of 20 last Friday for 91 yards. “He’s still trying to learn. But he was our quarterback for about 30 to 40 percent of our 7 on 7 season and he’s just going to get better each week.”

Watson said Stone made great strides from the Week 1 to Week 2 and that, despite playing a backup, the Warriors will still try to maintain balance offensively.

“Our receivers are better than last year, but we haven’t been able to get the ball to them,” he said. “And we have three new offensive linemen. But we’re going to run Michael some and try to throw 20-25 times a game.

“We just want to get better, try to hold on and maybe get Griffin back late in the season.”