Leader Blues

Friday, August 28, 2009

SPORTS >> Devils struggle in scrimmage

Leader sports editor

Mark Whatley didn’t try to convince himself or anybody else that Jacksonville’s offense was anything but disappointing in two scrimmages at Sylvan Hills on Tuesday.

The Red Devils, who figured to struggle early with the loss of most of their skill players, failed to score a point in either scrimmage, falling 14-0 to Little Rock Christian and 20-0 later in the evening to Pulaski Academy.

“Yeah, we’ve got concerns,” said Whatley, Jacksonville’s fifth-year head coach. “We didn’t throw and catch the ball well at all.

We had several right close to the sticks and we just didn’t finish.”

Logan Perry completed 8 of 13 passes against the Bruins, but for only 66 yards. Thirty-seven of those came on a swing pass to sophomore running back Gary Harrison for one of the few effective plays versus the PA defense. Harrison reached the eight, but the Red Devils failed to punch it in, and on fourth down Perry was picked at the goal line.

The running game produced only 20 yards, though the Devils lost 15 yards on two sacks of Perry. John Johnson and Antwone Mosby showed some promise. Johnson ripped off a 15-yard run while Mosby used a hesitation move to rumble for nine. But other than a 12-yard run by Harrison, the Red Devils could sustain little during the course of the evening.

With the absence of receiver Devin Featherston, who is out as many as six weeks with a high ankle sprain, Perry turned to Price Eubanks. He was the only Red Devil to catch two passes against the Bruins.

While Jacksonville’s defense, expected to be the team’s strength, was game against Michael Dyer and the Warriors, it fell off considerably against the Bruins. The coverage was solid at times, but the Bruins were still able to complete 13 of 27 passes for 131 yards and added 93 yards on the ground for a total of 224 yards.

The Red Devils were in position twice on the Bruins’ first scoring drive but both times failed to bat the ball down. The first one extended a drive and the second one resulted in a touchdown when D’Vone McClure tipped the ball into the hands of L.J. Wallace for a five-yard score.

PA made it 13-0 on a 60-yard touchdown pass to Wallace. The Bruins got their final touchdown on a screen pass that was sniffed out perfectly by the Devil ‘D.’ But Wallace broke loose from a would-be tackler at the line of scrimmage and scooted 69 yards for the score.

Against Little Rock Christian, Jacksonville’s offense struggled every bit as much but the defense was solid, especially in containing the fast and powerful Dyer, who saw limited action. A secondary breakdown, though, resulted in a 40-yard touchdown strike at the end of the first quarter and a 7-0 Warrior lead.

The Warriors’ other score was the result of a marvelous catch in the left corner of the end zone by 6-6, 250-pound Dakota Mosley, who simply out-skied defensive back Cedric Young for the touchdown.

While the offense could do little the rest of the way, the defense stood up against Dyer and the scrimmage ended when safety Jacarius Jordan took down the 5-9, 210-pound Division I shoe-in in the open field.

Jacksonville heads into its season opener at Cabot on Tuesday with questions about its offense but with a defense that can keep them in it.

“We were very pleased with the defense,” Whatley said. “I told them before we went out there that I could care less what the scoreboard said. We just wanted to be the most physical team out there. The way our defense played, I thought we were.

“If we keep playing physically and keep the emotion and the passion there, we’ll be okay.”