Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

SPORTS>> Falcons host big Bulldogs

Leader sportswriter

Gaining respect can sometimes be just as vital as picking up a win.

Last week’s 40-13 loss to powerhouse Beebe may not look all that impressive at first glance for coach Tony Bohannon’s North Pulaski Falcons, but they hung tough with the sixth-ranked team in the state for three quarters until the Badgers pulled it out going away.

“Don’t ever quit, that’s what I always go by,” said Falcon head coach Tony Bohannon, whose Falcons dropped their fourth straight to fall to 1-4, 0-2 in the 5A-Southeast. “The bottom line is, the kids saw they could compete with Beebe. That’s a plus for us. In this conference, anybody can beat anyone. A lot of us are in the same boat as far as injuries go – one or two people hurt can really hurt you. We’re still plugging, still working hard. We’re going to fight it until the end – don’t give up until they make you.”

The Falcons will host White Hall this week. The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-1) have had mixed results so far this season. They opened their 5A-Southeast Conference schedule with a surprising win over Sylvan Hills only to suffer a disappointing 27-15 loss to Crossett last Friday.

The Bulldogs will bring an offense that can be potent. Coach Mike Vaughn’s multiple look is led by junior quarterback Caleb Akers and senior running back J.J. Martin. Akers gained valuableexperience last year as a sophomore, and Martin put up solid numbers in his 2007 campaign with over 1,000 yards rushing for the Bulldogs.

Bohannon will prepare his team for White Hall the same way he plans on preparing for most of the Falcons’ Southeast opponents this year, with an eye on limiting its ground attack.

“They have some big linemen and some fast backs,” Bohannon said. “They have a slot, kind of a wing-T look, but they can also spread it out. They’re pretty athletic. We’re going to have to concentrate on stopping the run.”

There was buzz early on about the potential strength of the North Pulaski offensive line – a buzz that came with a warning from Bohannon because of depth problems. That warning proved prescient when three-year starting senior guard Dillon
Sheffield went down with a broke rib after the Falcons’ season-opening win over Searcy.

Sheffield has been out ever since, leaving prospective tight end Zach Barnes stuck at the line filling in for Sheffield. There is a chance Sheffield could return this week, which could give the Falcons more options on offense than they have in recent weeks.

While production on both offense and defense improved for North Pulaski last week, the special teams gave up two scores.

There were also some issues with penalties that the head Falcon could have done without.

“That’s the mental part of it,” Bohannon said. “You can’t have those kind of breakdowns. One example is we stopped them on third and seven, and then we had an unsportsmanlike penalty, and they kept the ball and ended up driving down and scoring on us. I was proud of our kids. They played hard. We just want to eliminate all those mistakes.”

“If you take away those two scores we gave up on special teams, and those mental letdowns, you’re looking at a whole different ball game,” he added.

A win for North Pulaski this week could mean more than just ending a four-game skid.

While Beebe and Monticello look to run away with the first two conference seeds at this point, a genuine dogfight could develop for the final two playoff spots. Everyone else has lost at least one league game in the first two weeks, leaving the Falcons very much alive to capture their first-ever playoff berth.