SPORTS >> Warriors pull away from Falcons
Leader staff writer
The good news for the North Pulaski Falcons was that they held all-state running back and major college prospect Michael Dyer of Little Rock Christian to 116 yards rushing in the first half — and had 10 more yards of total offense in that time.
The bad news was the Warriors capitalized on every Falcons mistake for 28 first-half points on their way to a 35-6 victory on Friday at Falcon Stadium.
Dyer broke free on a 50-yard sweep left to give Christian (3-0) a 14-0 lead with 8:39 left in the second quarter, and scored the Warriors’ next touchdown on a 15-yard screen pass from quarterback Jessie Stone with 4:17 left in the half.
Dyer finished with 116 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown, and had two receptions for 26 yards and a touchdown.
“Yeah, I’m happy with that. We won, and just came out and played a good game,” said Dyer, who was limited by coach Justin Kramer to just offense.
The scoreboard did not reflect the bright spots for the Falcons (0-3), which included 258 yards of total offense compared to 248 for Little Rock Christian.
“Starting the game, we played really well,” North Pulaski coach Rick Russell said. “We just have to go to the next play a little better. The mistakes have got to be left behind when we make them, and go to the next play and try to execute. And they did that for the most part.
“We do have some things to build on, and we’re going to correct some of the mistakes and hopefully be a better football team.”
The Warriors enacted the mercy rule with 7:35 left in the third quarter when Stone found Dakota Mosby for a 15-yard touchdown pass. Nathan Gay added his fifth straight successful extra point to make it 35-0.
The Falcons were determined to avoid the shutout, and Shyheim Barron led the offense down the field in the final five minutes, finding Arlando Hicks for a 12-yard touchdown pass in the middle of the field with 23 seconds to play.
Mat Ingersol’s extra-point attempt was wide right to keep the final margin at 35-6.
Junior linebacker Darrius Cage was keyed in on Dyer in the first half. Dyer’s first carry was for only 3 yards, as Cage burst through the blocking to take him down at the Falcon 48.
The Warriors went for a pair of pass plays, both of which were incomplete.
Cage and Billy Barron then teamed up to stop Dyer for a 2-yard gain on the first play of Christian’s next possession. But Stone set up Dyer’s first touchdown run with a keep for 15 yards that pushed the ball to midfield.
“I’m very proud of the defense,” Russell said, praising defensive coordinator J.B. Pendergraft. “They flew to the football. They listened to their coach. Coach Pendergraft had a great scheme, and they ran to the football and played well against him, they really did. I’m proud of them, they kept us in it in the first half.”
North Pulaski moved the ball 67 yards to the Christian 6 to start the game, but the Warriors forced a fourth and goal.
Quarterback Shyheim Barron scrambled and avoided the sack three different times, but finally threw into the hands of Christian
defender Keaton Curtis, who returned the interception 98 yards for the first score of the night.
“That’s been the story all year,” Russell said. “We get to a good start out of the box, and something bad happens. We’ve just got to learn to deal with adversity and keep plugging. I think they did that a little bit better than they have the last two games.
Stone went 0 for 5 before finding Dyer for the score mid-way through the second quarter, but he finally got the passing game in order on the Warriors’ next drive. It took two plays to put Christian up by four scores.
The first was a 23-yard pass to Tyler Bass that gave the Warriors a first down at their 49. The next was a fade to Elliot McElhanon that turned into a 51-yard touchdown play with 1:40 left in the half.
It was season low rushing numbers for Dyer, who now stands at 643 rushing yards for the season, 885 yards short of Vernon Hicks’ state record.
“I’m very excited about how our defense played tonight,” Dyer said. “When the defense is that good, I’m excited. I just do my part. Some days it’s just 115 (yards), or whatever it is, but I just do my part. No big deal.”
Dyer also did not shy away from college talk after the game.
“I’m going to Auburn tomorrow,” Dyer said, anticipating a visit with offensive coordinator, former Arkansas assistant and former Springdale High School coach Gus Malzahn. “Coach Malzahn invited me to come and sit down. I’m going to enjoy it and just have a good time.”
Stone was 5 of 14 passing for 115 yards and three touchdowns.
Syheim Barron was 7 of 11 passing for 146 yards and a touchdown, with an interception for the Falcons.