SPORTS >>Hurricane rages
Leader sports editor
The Jacksonville Red Devils surrendered 426 yards and 24 first downs to Jonesboro on Friday night, but it was the offense that had head coach Mark Whatley upset afterward.
Dropped passes, poor pass protection and a limited running game put the Red Devil defense in a huge hole all night long and the new-look Hurricane cashed in with a 31-13 victory at Jan Crow Field.
“We’ve got to go back to re-emphasizing catching the ball before we run with it,” said Whatley, whose Red Devils fell to 2-3 on the season and 1-1 in 6A-East play. “We made a couple of big plays, put a couple of good drives together. But we couldn’t make the big play when we need to.
“From an offensive standpoint, we didn’t block them and we didn’t catch the football.”
In fact, the Red Devils had a total of only seven possessions the entire evening and controlled the ball for just a little over 18 of the 48 minutes.
Jonesboro, under first-year head coach Randy Coleman, seems to have adapted quite well to the Spread offense, as quarterback Carter Callahan torched the Devil secondary for 25 of 36 passing for 259 yards, including three touchdowns.
What made the Hurricane so tough to defend, though, was the added dimension of running back Kowan Wright, who rumbled for 133 yards on 24 carries.
“It’s a pretty tough offense to stop,” Whatley said. “Especially on a night like tonight when we’re leaving the defense out on the field like we did.”
Jacksonville, meanwhile, showed flashes of effectiveness out of its multi-weaponed offense, but with the running attack suffering, the Joneboro front line teed off on sophomore quarterback Logan Perry, sacking him three times and keeping him mostly out of rhythm.
Callahan’s 35-yard field goal three-and-a-half minutes into the game staked the Hurricane (4-1, 2-0) to a 3-0 lead.
Jacksonville responded with a long 15-play, 77-yard drive to take a 7-3 lead on Patrick Geans’ 1-yard run with 2:30 left in the opening period.
But the Jonesboro offense answered right back with its own long drive. Callahan connected with A.J. Steele from two yards with 10:27 left in the first half and the Hurricane never trailed again.
The Red Devils escaped the first of their three turnovers on the night after fumbling the ensuing kickoff at the 19. But the defense stiffened and Callahan missed a 25-yard field goal.
But the Hurricane cashed in their next opportunity, mixing the pass and the run to go 64 yards in eight plays. Wright’s 3-yard run before half had Jonesboro in command, 17-7.
Jonesboro committed its only turnover of the night with a fumble two minutes into the second half. Cordero Shelton pounced on it at midfield, but the Red Devils ran out of downs at the 32.
Jonesboro then deflated the Devils by marching 68 yards on 14 plays, ending in Callahan’s 5-yard scoring strike to Steele and the Hurricane increased the lead to 24-7 midway though the third period.
Jacksonville came to life, if only briefly, when Perry hit Demetris Harris for 20 yards and the Red Devils reached the Jonesboro 28.
But the Hurricane all but put it away when Jake Ferguson stepped in front of a Perry pass at the 25 and returned it 40 yards to the Jacksonville 35.
With Callahan able to stand in the pocket and look for receivers, the Hurricane needed just six plays to make it 31-7. This time, Callahan hooked up with Daniel Rodely from five yards 28 seconds into the final period.
The Red Devils put together their second good drive of the night, converting an improbable third-and-14 on a 38-yard Logan-to-Geans pass, and an even more unlikely fourth-and-27 on a hook a lateral play from Perry to Stan Appleby to Harris. A face mask moved the ball to the 14 and two plays later, Harris hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Perry.
Perry finished 19 of 33 for 193 yards and two interceptions. Geans carried eight times — all in the first half — for 22 yards. With three sacks totaling 26 yards in losses, the Red Devils managed just two yards on 15 carries on the night and 195 yards overall.
“They are very balanced and Coach Whatley does a great job of calling plays,” said Coleman, whose club surrendered 46 points a week ago to Parkview. “But we controlled both sides of the line and put a lot of pressure on their young quarterback. The great thing about this week is (Jacksonville) runs a lot of the same plays that we run so our defense has seen those plays since spring.”
Harris caught six passes for 63 yards, while Terrell Brown and Appleby each hauled in four passes.
The Red Devils will try to rebound when they visit Little Rock Hall next Friday.