Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

SPORTS >> Beebe brings winning streak, ground game to rival Lonoke

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

One of the longest-standing local rivalries will continue its tradition at James B. Abraham Field on Friday when Beebe invades Lonoke.

The Badgers had opportunities to win their opener against Greenbrier last week, but a late fumble deep in Panther territory took them out of contention while Lonoke got 235 yards from running back Brandon Smith on its way to a 27-0 victory over Pulaski Robinson.

The Beebe-Lonoke series dates back nearly 50 years, but Beebe has owned this decade. Lonoke took victories in 2000 and 2001 to cap a seven-game winning streak that began in 1995, but Beebe ended that streak with victories in 2002 and 2003.

The last victory for Lonoke came in a 34-26 shootout in 2004, while Beebe has won the last four in a row.

“Any time Beebe and Lonoke get together, it’s a big game,” said Beebe coach John Shannon, who is 2-0 against the Jackrabbits since taking over in 2007.

“Even when I played here 25 years ago it was a big rivalry,” Shannon said. “We’re only 20 miles away from each other; their kids know our kids and vice versa.”

The previous two coaches at Lonoke had a combined 1-6 record against Beebe. For first-year Jackrabbits coach Doug Bost, a victory against Lonoke’s closest rival in his first year at the helm would be an achievement.

“I was talking to some guys who used to play for us, and they said that 2004 was the last time we beat them,” Bost said.

“Before that, who knows? But Beebe has definitely had our number. We would love to close out the decade with a win against them; it’s something to shoot for.”

The Jackrabbits got it done on the ground last Friday with their 27-0 shutout over Pulaski Robinson. Smith, a senior, ran wild with three touchdowns against the Senators’ defense despite playing less than three quarters.

“The first thing for us is trying to stop their running game,” Shannon said of Smith. “You know they want to get it in number 5’s hands. They’re a spread team, but 60 to 70 percent of the time they’re going to run out of the spread. We want to try and make them one-dimensional and, hopefully, we’ll do a better job of that this week.”

Greenbrier ended a six-game skid against the Badgers last week with an offensive performance that netted 428 yards. Almost 300 yards came through the air for the Panthers, something Bost hopes his team can emulate.

“I think we need to get more from the passing game,” Bost said. “We had 240 yards of passing in one half in our scrimmage against Oak Grove. Of course, Robinson got the film from that game and really concentrated. They had guys pinned back deep but hey, it opened up the running game. We’ll see how Beebe plays us.”

The Badgers had 330 yards of offense last week against Greenbrier. But drive-ending penalties, and a costly fumble with less than four minutes left took them out of contention. Such mistakes are what concern Shannon.

“Overall, for us to play as bad as we did and still pick up that many yards wasn’t too bad,” Shannon said. “But we’ve got to get those silly things fixed. The offensive line played stellar, but we have to fix some things and get better.”

The Jackrabbits lost an early interception but committed no further turnovers in their victory over Pulaski Robinson, but they did have some issues with penalties.

“We had three personal fouls that backed us up about 45 yards or so,” Bost said. “You don’t really like to see mouthing and that kind of stuff going on, so we’ll definitely talk about that this week. But I thought our offensive line came out and really executed. Defensively, we were flying to the football.”

Bost said, like last week, his pass defenders will have to worry more about run support when they face Beebe this week.

“Playing Robinson last week helped us,” Bost said. “They only threw six passes and completed one. That helped us prepare for Beebe. They’re just going to get in that dead-T and pound, pound, pound. They are very effective at running that offense, that’s for sure.”