Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SPORTS>>Falcons will try to rebound from disappointing setback

Leader sports editor

One team is coming off what its coach terms one of the most disappointing in seven years. The other one just played its best, most complete game of the year.

When Beebe travels to North Pulaski to take on the reeling Falcons this Friday, all the cards would seem to be stacked in the Badgers’ favor. Beebe (3-1 and 1-0 in the 5A-Southeast) put it all together in a 42-27 cruise past Crossett last Friday night.

North Pulaski, on the other hand, let one slip away in a 22-15 loss at McClellan.

“It’s still getting to me,” North Pulaski coach Tony Bohannon said on Monday. “I was proud of the way we came back in the second half, but you can’t just play one half. “The first game at Searcy, we played the first half but didn’t come out the second half.”

The Falcons fell to 1-3 and 0-1 last Friday when they allowed McClellan to twice escape long-yardage situations in the final five minutes while clinging to a 1-point lead. The Lions then torched North Pulaski for a 48-yard pass to the 3 to set up the winning touchdown.

Other than that pass play and a 63-yard run in the first quarter, the Falcon defense was stellar all night, limiting the Lions to 240 total yards.

“We had a good defensive game plan and we stuck with it,” Bohannon said. “We got beat on a long pass and a long run. But the defense and the special teams got it back for us and gave us a chance.”

Unfortunately, the Falcon offense didn’t pitch in. After a pretty good showing the week before in a lopsided loss to Little Rock Christian, the Falcons could get almost nothing going on offense against McClellan, especially in the first half, when 26 plays netted 30 yards.

But the Falcons rallied at halftime, stripped the ball on the opening kickoff of the second half and scored to cut the gap to 14-9. Jerald Blair’s interception and return to the 2 midway through the final period set up the go-ahead score.

“We hope what we did in the second half will carry over (to Friday),” Bohannon said. “But we just didn’t move the ball like we should have. That’s will be one of the things we really work on this week, maintaining possession. Beebe will keep the ball all night if we let them. That’s the way the (Wing T) works when you run it like your supposed to run it.”

The North Pulaski offensive line, which figured to be one of the strengths heading into the season, opened up precious few holes on Friday. What yardage Billy Barron, Bryan Colson and Darius Cage got came mostly from hard running. Bohannon chalks up the offensive line woes to the loss of Dylan Sheffield to injury in Week 2.

For Beebe head coach John Shannon, consistency on both sides of the ball had him especially pleased after some spotty early-season performances.

“We had a couple of good drives and then we’d sputter in the red zone,” he said. “We did that against Greenbrier and we did the same thing against Lonoke. Friday night, we were a lot more consistent. The defense tackled a lot better, the kids flew to the ball a lot better. It was kind of like we were finally starting to figure things out.”

Shannon isn’t so sure a disappointing loss to Vilonia the previous week wasn’t a good thing, and may have served to convince his team that it had to show up focused and ready every week.

With tailback Brandon Purcell on the sidelines with a turned ankle most of last Friday, Shannon was able to find another option to feature back Sammy Williams: the forward pass. It worked to perfection. Pound, pound, pound with Williams, who finished with 177 yards and three touchdowns, then play-action pass for big gains. Quarterback Roger Glaude made the most of his four pass attempts, completing three for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Purcell is expected to return for Friday’s action. Shannon said he is not looking past North Pulaski’s 1-3 start and is concerned about their physical play.

“They haven’t been blown out by anybody,” Shannon said. “Their defense is playing a lot better. They got three huge guys on the line and a big ol’ fullback. They’re a dangerous team.”

For Bohannon, it’s become an issue of pride.

“The thing about football is, like life, you have to play to represent yourself,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to get them to understand is that everybody has to represent themselves well. And that’s what they did in the second half.”