Leader Blues

Saturday, September 13, 2008

SPORTS>>Late turnover propels Devils

By MARK BURKE
For the Leader

VILONIA — An attempt to run out the clock ended with an untimely turnover for Vilonia. Later, though, the clock ran out on the Eagles.

As a result, Jacksonville spoiled Vilonia’s home opener, taking a 27-21 win at Phillip Weaver Stadium.

“We just gave it away,” a disgruntled Eagles coach Jim Stanley said after the game. “We turned the ball over too many times.

You can’t beat anybody like that.”

Clinging to a slim 21-19 lead with 10 minutes left, Vilonia began a drive at its own 30 hoping to run off most of the remaining time.

Kory Howard began the drive with a 9-yard run, followed by a 2-yard gain from Dillon Herrin that was the first of three first downs for the Eagles on the drive.

Vilonia eventually advanced all the way to the Red Devil 14 before coughing up its fifth fumble of the night with 4:51 left and gave the Red Devils the ball 28. The Eagles lost four of their five fumbles, leading to 15 Jacksonville points.

“I felt like we should have beat them by four touchdowns, but we just fumbled it away,” Stanley said. “When you fumble the ball five times and do what we did, you can’t win.”

Jacksonville needed just 40 seconds to find the end zone on their ensuing possession. After Keith Rodgers picked up nine rushing yards on the first play of the drive, Logan Perry hit Stanley Appleby in stride in what resulted in a 63-yard touchdown pass with 4:11 left. Perry completed a pass to Demitris Harris for the 2-point conversion, giving the Red Devils their six-point lead.

That left Vilonia an adequate amount of time to try for a winning score. Still, it was important to Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley points were put on the board, regardless of what the clock read.

“I don’t think it’s ever too early to get ahead,” Whatley said. “It’s too dadgum hard to get there anyway.”

Vilonia had success getting downfield, as the Eagles began their comeback attempt.

Facing 4th-and-2 from the Red Devil 34, Aaron Oade gained seven yards, but the ball was stripped. However, offensive tackle Zac Ellis recovered the loose ball to keep the drive alive with less than a minute left.

Out of timeouts, the Eagles were faced with the task of getting in the end zone with little time remaining. That attempt, though, ended after Zach Mitchell took a pass from Drew Knowles and was taken down seven yards from paydirt.

“We just didn’t do what we needed to do,” Stanley said. “We shouldn’t have been in that situation.”

That’s especially true considering Vilonia dominated the time-of-possession battle (29:23 to 18:37) and Jacksonville had four turnovers of its own.

The Red Devils’ offensive start was marred by turnovers. The Eagles defense forced turnovers on each of the first three Jacksonville offensive series.

“Our kids overcame adversity all game long,” Whatley said.

They also had to overcome a strong rushing attack.

Oade and Tyler Head finished with 135 and 109 yards, respectively, to lead the Vilonia running game. Using that to control the clock took its tool on the Red Devils.

“It’s kind of frustrating,” Whatley said. “They make you play assignment football, and they do a good job.”

But Jacksonville had a strong ground game of its own, led by Patrick Geans.The senior had 15 carries for 136 yards and three touchdowns — on runs of 6, 43 and 10 yards.

The Eagles, though, struck first. Ross Estes took his first carry of the season 19 yards for the opening score at the 4:17 mark in the first quarter. James Lloyd’s PAT gave Vilonia a 7-0 lead.

Geans, though, tied things up after scoring on a 6-yard run in the second quarter. The score remained 7-7 at halftime.

Geans’ second and third touchdowns both came in the third quarter and gave Jacksonville a 19-7 advantage.

That lead was short-lived, though, as Oade capped Vilonia’s next drive with a 17-yard touchdown run. Another Lloyd PAT brought the Eagles within five (19-14).

The Vilonia defense forced Jacksonville’s ensuing drive to fail, and Howard gave the Eagles their 21-19 lead with a 33-yard touchdown run and a PAT from Lloyd.

A late, fumble, though kept Vilonia from keeping that lead.

The Eagles host Beebe next Friday.