Leader Blues

Friday, November 28, 2008

SPORTS>>Saints rout ’Rabbits

Leader sportswriter

SPRINGDALE – Shiloh Christian had little trouble spreading the wealth during the its 47-7 win over Lonoke in the 3A state quarterfinals on Friday night at Champions Stadium.

Five of their six touchdowns in the first half came through the air, all to different receivers. Those scoring strikes also came from two different sources, as the Saints (11-1) went on to set the final margin before the half.

The Saints defense also had a dominating night, holding the Jackrabbits (10-2) to only 244 yards, 140 of which came in the second half. None of it came on the ground.

“Offensively, defensively, they just dominated us,” said Lonoke coach Jeff Jones. “They hit us in the mouth, and we didn’t like it. We couldn’t do anything about it. They’re a great football team, bottom line. They are a better team up front, and we didn’t have an answer at all.”

Lonoke’s only score of the night came on an 84-yard kickoff return by senior Lance Jackson at the 4:11 mark of the first quarter. That cut Shiloh Christian’s early 10-0 lead to three after a successful point-after kick by Sam King, but the Saints’ next six scores went unanswered. That included a blocked punt for a safety to start the second quarter.

The clock ran continuously in the second half after Shiloh Christian secured a 47-7 lead by halftime.

The Jackrabbits never stopped trying to close the gap in the second half despite staring down a 40 point deficit coming out of the locker room. The running clock limited them to just three possessions in the second half, and Lonoke drove the ball to the Saints’ red zone each time.

The first drive ended with a pass to Michael Howard that fell two yards shy of the markers at the Saints’ 14-yard line. The second drive stalled at the Shiloh Christian 22 and the final drive ended the season for Lonoke as time expired after an incomplete pass from senior quarterback Rollins Elam to Howard in the end zone.

With the Saints holding Lonoke to minus one yard rushing, the Elam-Howard connection was the only effective weapon for the Jackrabbits. Howard ended with 14 receptions for 155 yards.

Elam, Howard, Joel Harris and Clarence Harris made up a strong senior core that helped lead the Jackrabbits to the 2-4A Conference championship, Lonoke’s first title in eight seasons.

“They had an outstanding year,” Jones said. “And that’s what I told them. To come out in the second half, and us leave the field with some dignity. I’m proud of the way they finished.”

Elam finished 22 of 37 passing for 245 yards.

Saints quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier and David Matthews split the time behind center. Frazier led the opening drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal, and had the only rushing touchdown for Shiloh Christian with a 10-yard scramble at the 4:26 mark of the first quarter.

Matthews had three passes for touchdowns, including one from the halfback slot after a toss from Frazier. He found Jake Ryan for a 73-yard score with 11:11 to go in the first half to put the Saints up 24-7.

Shiloh Christian finished with 506 yards of total offense.

“We’re really proud of our guys,” said Saints coach Josh Floyd. “We’re a little disappointed that they had the kickoff return on us, because we talked about it all week that the special teams could help us because they are very good on kick returns. I’m really proud of how our defense played. To have a shutout on those guys is unbelievable. No offense to our kids, but we sure didn’t expect this. We would have been excited if we held those guys to three or four touchdowns, really.”

Shiloh Christian’s dominant defensive line, led by left tackle Samuel Harvell, kept the pressure on Elam all night, sacking him three times and allowing no Lonoke runner to rush for positive yardage.

“We tackled well, and that was a big concern for us coming in,” Floyd said. “They have so much athletic ability, and a lot of big-time receivers with speed that we’re really not used to seeing. Our defensive backs missed a few tackles, but overall I thought they played really well.”