Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

SPORTS>>Devils head south for 2nd round

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville’s fight for playoff survival will continue this Friday when the Red Devils travel to Pearcy to face Lake Hamilton. The Wolves (7-3) received a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed out of the 6A-South Conference. Jacksonville (6-5) barely got by Sheridan in the first round last week 13-12 to advance. And if the Red Devils hope to have a chance, they’re probably going to have to get their offense back in gear after managing just a pair of touchdowns against the Yellowjackets.

“We had 13 points taken off the board,” said Whatley, whose team survived by blocking a pair of extra points. “That makes a big difference, but the kids didn’t get upset over what happened. They kept fighting, and just went out there and kept playing football.

“This bunch is a pretty resilient team. Last week, they just kept battling and kept fighting. They weren’t getting upset or blaming the officiating or anything like that, they just kept doing their jobs.”

No one received more preseason buzz than Lake Hamilton senior quarterback and Tulsa signee Philip Butterfield. Butterfield helped lead the Wolves to the 6A state title game last year, where they suffered their only loss of the season, 13-0 to Texarkana.

They did not repeat as conference champs this year after losing to eventual champs Pine Bluff in Week 5. The Zebrashanded Lake Hamilton its only league loss in a wild 73-66 shootout.

“Their quarterback is very dynamic, and they have good receivers,” said Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley. “It’s hard to get pressure on them. They’ve been grooming for a championship for three years with this bunch. Our defense will have to play the best game they’ve ever played.”

Though more high profile, Butterfield is not the only senior in Lake Hamilton’s offensive arsenal. Wide receivers Josh Proffit and Tauno Vannucci are also dangerous players in their own right. Butterfield has had solid success finding both players during the year.

Running backs David Church and D.J. Bell give the Wolves an extra dimension that keeps defenses honest.

“They just do so much,” Whatley said. “They will stretch you all over the field. They use multiple formations. They do a lot, and do it well. We’re going to have to have good tackling, and lining up correctly will be one of our biggest challenges because of all the different formations.”

Butterfield and the Lake Hamilton offense base out of the spread, but can also go to the wishbone and Wing-T.

The Red Devils have their own up-and-coming talent in sophomore quarterback Logan Perry, who has played beyond his years during much of the 2008 season. His 11-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Demetris Harris late in the Sheridan game was the difference, with Brandon Harris’ point-after-kick providing the game-winner.

“(Logan’s) not young anymore. He just turned 16 this past Saturday,” Whatley joked. “He’s not a 15-year-old kid anymore, he’s an old man now – we’re ready to go.

“He’s had a great year, and he’s had some great guys around him,” he added.

The odds appear to be stacked against the Red Devils this week, but Whatley said that stranger things have happened this year, and since the start of the playoffs for that matter.

“This has been a crazy year and a crazy playoff season,” Whatley said. “Who would have thought that a No. 6 seed like Marion would go and play a El Dorado to within one point, and that Watson Chapel would go up and blow out Mountain Home. No one out there expects us to win, but no one expected any of that to happen either.”