Leader Blues

Friday, August 28, 2009

SPORTS >> Defense rules as Badgers, Lions hold scrimmage

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Tuesday night’s benefit game between Searcy and Beebe at Bro Erwin Stadium featured two teams with completely different agendas.

For Beebe, led by third-year coach John Shannon, it was the first opportunity for his team of mostly young, inexperienced players to familiarize themselves with typical Friday night conditions. For Searcy, it was the first all-out matchup with an opponent under new coach Tim Harper, the former head coach at Des Arc.

Those two agendas collided for a defense-dominated scrimmage. Searcy pushed the ball 70 yards for a score on its first 15-play possession, but had limited success after that. Beebe’s running game was consistent, but with a number of fumbles at critical points.

“I thought overall the kids had a great effort,” said Shannon. “We got after it and competed well. We made some mistakes. We put the ball on the ground a few times. I was a little disappointed with that. I thought we missed some sure tackles on defense. But overall, for the first time with such a young group, I thought we did a pretty good job.”

The format consisted of each team running 15 plays each. After three 15-play drives for each team, the junior varsity squads traded 10-play series before the night concluded with red-zone scrimmages at the 10-yard line.

The Lions had success moving the ball early with junior quarterback Josh Rowden to score in 12 plays on the first drive, capping the series with a 16-yard touchdown scramble.

The Lions came close to another score on the first sequence when Rowden found junior fullback Mike Brown for a completion on the right side near the goal line, but the play was negated on a holding penalty.

There was, not surprisingly, little passing by Beebe. Starting junior quarterback Scott Gowen led the Badgers 70 yards in nine plays in their first sequence. The drive featured a series of short runs by halfback Colby Taylor and fullback Adam Griffis, with Gowen getting in on the action as well.

Gowen’s 15-yard scamper on the fourth play took the ball across midfield and moved the chains, and a 12-yard touchdown run by senior Victor Howell down the right side evened the score. Howell carried the ball three times in the first sequence for 28 yards.

“He’s our fastest kid,” said Shannon. “Hopefully, we can get him in some open space and he can use that speed. But there were a couple of times where we couldn’t even get him to the corner because we missed some blocks. We’ve just got a lot of mistakes we need to fix. As long as the effort is there, we’ve got a chance.”

Beebe added a pair of late scores with the red-zone drills.

“That’s what these scrimmages are for – to see the mistakes that you make and let these kids play in a live situation,” said Shannon. “So hopefully, they get some of the mistakes corrected and some of the jitters out of the way before they really start
counting next week.”

The Lions’ biggest offensive spark was backup quarterback Dezmund Stegall. The 6-1, 185-pound sophomore showed flashes of being a solid all-purpose field general, leading the Lions near the red zone in Searcy’s second offensive sequence. He completed only 2 of 8 passes, overthrowing several receivers. But he connected on a 40-yard bomb to a wide open B.J. Slaughter down the left side. That was the biggest gainer of the night for either team. Stegall also had a pair of scrambles for 17 yards.

The Badgers’ second team offensive unit had less difficulty holding on to the ball, but more trouble moving it. Junior backup quarterback Jordan Brockway led his unit 45 yards before the 15 plays were up, although a miscue between Brockway and running back Donny Lewis on a pitch right resulted in a fumble and loss of yards on the final play of the sequence.

Unofficially, the final score ended up 13-6 in Beebe’s favor. In light of last year’s 56-0 Badger blowout, the Tim Harper era of Searcy football opened on a positive note.

Beebe’s defense bent but did not break on the remaining Searcy sequences after giving up the opening TD.

“I thought defensive end Dillon Jones did a good job of containing the quarterback,” said Shannon. “He made several good plays. Adam Griffis did a good job at linebacker. The rest of it is hard to tell until we get in there and watch the film. Overall, I felt like the defense did a good job other than a couple of missed tackles that they made big runs on.”

Beebe will open regular-season play next Friday at home against Greenbrier, while Searcy will play at Vilonia.