SPORTS>>Late Lion score sinks North Pulaski
Leader sports editor
With the exception of a couple of mistakes, the North Pulaski defense played well enough to win most games on Friday night at McClellan.
But those two mistakes were big ones and the Falcon offense offered little support as North Pulaski suffered a disappointing 22-15 loss to the Lions in Little Rock.
“We could easily be 2-2 right now so it’s disappointing,” said North Pulaski head coach Tony Bohannon. “The defense played real well and got us the ball back several times. We cashed some of those in but not some of the others.”
The Falcons managed just 113 total yards — minus-1 through the air — in falling to 1-3 and 0-1 in 5A-Southeast Conference play.
But the defense was solid and forced three Lion turnovers to keep the Falcons in it. It was Jerald Blair’s interception and return to the McClellan 2 with 9:01 left in the game that set up the Falcons’ go-ahead score when Billy Barron went two yards on a trap play to give North Pulaski a 15-14 lead with 7:41 left.
With the Falcon defense even stingier in the second half than the first, it appeared that might just hold up, especially when the Falcons forced the Lions into a third-and-11 and a fourth-and-five.
But Cleo Gray got the first down by inches to keep the McClellan drive alive with 5:30 left. Again, the Falcon defense stiffened, and put the Lions on the brink with a third-and-nine with three-and-a-half minutes remaining.
That’s when the Falcon defense had its second big letdown of the night. Terrance Ingram got behind his defender and hauled in a 48-yard pass from Elgin Harris to set the Lions up at the 3. Darren Mackey went in on the next play and the two-point run made it 22-15 with 3:30 left in the contest.
The Falcons, who struggled to get anything going offensively all evening, managed a first down on Darius Cage’s 13-yard run on third and two. But on fourth down, Blair took the direct snap and was caught in the backfield and McClellan ran out the clock. Blair’s only highlights came on defense as the big-play threat finished with five carries for minus-5 yards.
“We’ve got to start getting him the ball more,” Bohannon said.
The defense’s only other letdown on the night came on the first play of McClellan’s second possession, when Gray went 63 yards untouched to put the Lions on top 7-3. Earlier Matt Ingersoll had nailed a 25-yard field goal to put North Pulaski on top.
That field goal followed a fumbled McClellan pitch that was recovered by Jon Wlock at the Lion 30-yard line. Cage carried a pile 17 yards on first down, but the drive stalled at the 7.
North Pulaski continued to sputter offensively against a big McClellan defense that disrupted nearly every play the Falcons tried to run wide. North Pulaski ran 26 first-half plays and totaled only 30 yards and two first downs.
Andrew Allen made an ill-advised throw when he was in the grasp of a McClellan defender midway through the second period, setting up the Lions’ second score of the night when Gray rumbled 15 yards to make it 14-3.
But the Falcons came out with renewed purpose in the second half. Daniel Thurman recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff of the half and North Pulaski went 35 yards in four plays. Cage went off tackle and into the end zone from four yards to make it 14-9. A two-point run failed, but the Falcons had momentum, especially after the defense stalled a McClellan drive at the North Pulaski 26.
The Falcons had their only sustained drive of the night at that point, holding the ball for over five minutes, but stalling at midfield.
But Vinnie Osmun pounced on a fumbled snap on McClellan’s first play after a Falcon punt to give the Falcons the ball at the Lion 15. But the Falcons failed to cash in when on fourth down Michael Fleshman couldn’t quite hang on to Allen’s pass in the left corner of the end zone.
McClellan took over and two plays later, Blair stepped in front of a Harris’ pass down the middle and picked it off at the 19, returning it to the 2 to set up Barron’s go-ahead run.
Cage led North Pulaski with 53 yards on 15 carries. Barron and Bryan Colson added 36 each as the Falcons gained 114 yards on the ground on 47 carries.
The Lions were led by Gray’s 157 yards on the ground. McClellan finished with 240 total yards.
North Pulaski hosts Beebe next Friday.