Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SPORTS >> Red Devils catch fire

By TODD TRAUB
Leader sports editor

It could be argued Jacksonville is on a roll as it makes its second consecutive road trip in the 6A-East this week.

The problem is, Jacksonville’s roll is only two quarters long.

The Red Devils, who travel to Jonesboro on Friday, roared back from a 28-0 halftime deficit at Mountain Home last week only to fall short in a 35-28 loss. Jacksonville (1-3, 0-1) finished with 486 total yards, getting 381 in the second half, but on fourth and 10 with the game on the line, Mountain Home sacked quarterback Logan Perry to preserve the victory.

“Well, you put up 381 yards in one half of football, that’s pretty ridiculous,” Red Devils coach Mark Whatley said. “We didn’t get out of the box, we didn’t line up right in the first half. We didn’t play technique on the defensive line very well and it hurt us.”

Whatley had to admit the comeback was impressive, but it could have ended in a Jacksonville victory if there had been more attention to detail, he said.

“You spot somebody 28 points, and the killing thing about it is we get to the 11-yard line in the last part of the game and had a chance to win it right there,” Whatley said. “Had a real good chance if we’d done the little old things we’re supposed to do and we didn’t.”

Letting the defender come free on the final sack was just one of the miscues that plagued the Red Devils, Whatley said. There was a breakdown in the kicking game after the third score that would have forced Jacksonville to go for two if it had gotten its late-game touchdown, there were some missed passes and there was an 82-yard kickoff return by Mountain Home’s Todd Bowman that put the Bombers up 35-7 early in the second half.

“That’s when I thought, ‘Well, we’re going to find out how much character we do have,’ ” Whatley said.

The Red Devils responded with drives of 80, 79, 74 and 80 yards, and they drove 68 yards before coming up short at the end. Receiver Devon Featherston and running back Keith Mosby had critical fourth-down conversions while getting out of bounds to stop the clock.

“We were definitely behind the 8-ball,” Whatley said. “And we had some kids make some crucial plays. We had two fourth-down conversions right at the stick.”

It’s a good thing the offense has shown some explosiveness, Whatley said, because Jonesboro can boast a pretty explosive defense.

Against Little Rock Parkview, Jonesboro had back-to-back interception returns for touchdowns and recovered a fumble. At one point, the defense had as many points, 14, as both offenses combined and finished with 16 points.

Jonesboro (4-0, 1-0) had 10 sacks in its 37-7 victory, with linebackers Brad Shearin and Terrance Greer getting four each. The defense also stopped Parkview on fourth and goal at the 1.

“Both those linebackers are exceptional football players,” Whatley said.

Jonesboro’s offense, on the other hand, struggled at times last week as it fumbled deep in its territory on three of its first five plays.

“They’re running the spread,” Whatley said. “They’re similar to what we’re trying to do but what’s got them going right now is their defense. Their defense is giving their offense time to grow up right now.”

To contend with the Hurricane pressure, especially off the edge, Whatley said he would have to keep Perry on the move.

“I think you’ve got to move the pocket every now and then and the biggest thing is we’ve got to be sound on our assignments and pick up the blitzes,” Whatley said.

It’s another long conference road trip against another tough opponent, but the Red Devils at least showed some explosiveness and heart in their last two quarters, Whatley said.

“It’s terrible to have to start out 0-1 in conference but the good thing about it is they came back and fought and pulled together as a team a little bit,” Whatley said.