Leader Blues

Saturday, November 22, 2008

SPORTS>>Pulaski Academy pounds Badgers

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

A quick glance at the numbers and you might have thought that Beebe had hit upon the perfect formula for success against Pulaski Academy on Friday night.

The Badgers had 10 more minutes of possession time, rushed 45 times for 260 yards and passed for another 88. And the prolific Bruins had, for them, a modest 436 yards of total offense.

How then did it all add up to a 63-21 pasting and the second straight lopsided loss to end a Beebe season? Five turnovers is how. That, and a Pulaski Academy offense that appears all but unstoppable.

“It’s one of the best offenses I’ve ever faced in 18 years of high school football,” said Beebe head coach John Shannon, whose Badgers finished the season 9-3. “Their quarterback and those two receivers get all the credit, but what makes them go is that offensive line.”

Those two receivers — Carson McKnight and University of Arkansas signee Neal Barlow — combined for 11 catches for 169 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Spencer Keith connected on 21 of 28 passes for 306 yards and six touchdowns.

“We had some different packages to try to confuse them,” Shannon said. “To try to get some pressure. But their offensive line is so good that he had all day to throw. Eventually, he’s going to find somebody. We got them in third and long a couple of times and they made the critical plays.”

Beebe’s sensational fullback Sammy Williams closed out his career with a 138-yard performance to finish the year with more than 1,700 yards. The Badgers had offensive punch throughout the evening, getting big holes for Williams, Brandon Pursell and Luke Gardner to run through.

But three first-half turnovers — one especially critical one down at the Pulaski Academy goal line — put the Badgers in a 42-7 halftime hole. That, despite the Badgers piling up 266 yards and 10 first downs. But Keith was already 19 of 23 for 272 yards by then.

The Bruins (11-1), who will face Greenwood next week, scored 63 points for the fourth time in 12 games, including the second straight week. They jumped on Beebe early and if the ground-oriented Badgers were to have any chance in this one, they couldn’t let that happen.

The Bruins scored a minute and 18 seconds into the contest on Keith’s five-yard pass to Caleb Jones, then added another quick score on D.J. Daniels’ 31-yard run with 8:06 left in the first period. Beebe quarterback Roger Glaude connected with Gardner for a 61-yard pass down to the Bruin 11, but the drive stalled and Glaude was picked off at the goal line and PA scored two minutes later on Keith’s 9-yard pass to Adam Beebe to make it 20-0 with 2:04 left in the opening period.

The Badgers mar-ched 93 yards on 10 plays to cut into the lead when Gardner went over from six yards to make it 20-7 early in the second period. But there was simply no stopping the Bruin machine on Friday. They answered with a 6-play, 66-yard drive with McKnight hauling in a three-yard pass from Keith to make it 28-7.

A fumble two plays later set up the Bruins at the Beebe 49. Four plays later, Barlow caught his first touchdown pass, this one from five yards. Whatever hope the Badgers still retained was lost when Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff and PA recovered at the Beebe 28. Keith hit Barlow from two yards and the rout was on.

By halftime, Pulaski Academy had had the ball for less than eight minutes, but had converted all five of their possessions into touchdowns. The average drive was 50 yards and took an average of just a minute, 26 seconds.

Glaude hit Pursell in stride for a 49-yard touchdown pass to open the second half to make it 42-14.

“I was proud of the kids for not quitting,” Shannon said. “We knew the mercy rule was in effect for the second half and I challenged them to see what kind of character they had. That’s the proudest thing about this program, they never quit.”

But the Bruins scored three consecutive touchdowns with a continuously running clock, including one when Pete Lowery stripped Williams of the ball and ran it in from 29 yards.

“One thing we knew coming in we couldn’t do was turn it over,” Shannon said. “When you turn it over five times against anybody, it’s going to be a long night. It kind of sealed our fate right there.”

In addition to Williams’ 138 yards on 23 carries, Gardner added 51 on nine totes and Pursell 40 on seven. Pursell also caught four passes for 72 yards. Glaude was 6 of 9 for 88 yards.

The Badgers will say goodbye to a large number of seniors.

“It was a great group of seniors,” Shannon said. “They won 17 games over two years and not many teams in the state of Arkansas can say that. We’re going to miss them a lot.”

As far as the second straight demoralizing finish to a season, Shannon said it was an opportunity to build.

“It’s makes us see how far we have to go,” he said. “Last season, we made it to the playoffs. This year, we made it to the second round. We’re making progress, but we have a ways to go to get up there with the powerhouses like Greenwood and PA.

But I’m happy as long as we’re making progress.”