SPORTS >> North Pulaski endures big loss in coach’s debut
Special to The Leader
A rough debut for new North Pulaski head coach Rick Russell did little to dampen the head Falcon’s view of his football team Friday night.
The Dumas Bobcats beat the Falcons 40-7 in a season opener marred for North Pulaski by too many turnovers.
Still, the lopsided score wasn’t an indicator of how many things went right for the Falcons. North Pulaski was able to move the ball well on the ground for much of the game, while the defense — constantly left with a short field to defend — gave up just two real scoring drives.
“Our kids played hard and didn’t give up,” said Russell, the former Jacksonville defensive coordinator who traveled across town to take over the Falcons. “They could have given up, but they didn’t. We have kids out there who never want to come off the field and that’s the kind of attitude you want.”
Three of Dumas’ scores came directly after mistakes by the punting unit. Two bad snaps over punter Marshall Shipley’s head resulted in touchdowns on the next play. The first score came on a 5-yard run by Sherodrick Smith and the next on a 15-yard pass from Darion Griswold to Wade Williams.
Dumas’ final touchdown came after Shipley snagged a bad snap and the punt was blocked. The Bobcats took over at the 1 and scored two plays later.
“I’ve stressed that sudden changes are the difference in football games and that’s what happened tonight with all the turnovers,” Russell said. “But we’re going to look at the film and focus on the good things that happened tonight and build on that.”
North Pulaski was able to run the ball down Dumas’ throat at times, but the Falcons struggled to score. The Falcons’ opening drive was going well until Dumas’ Corey Freeman intercepted a pass inside the 5 and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown.
Another long drive stalled after a delay of game penalty on fourth-and-1 backed the Falcons up. The next play gained 5 yards, but the Falcons were just short of a first down.
“We have to stay focused on what’s happening now and not think about that last play and get down,” Russell said. “The plays that went wrong didn’t go wrong because of a lack of effort. We have kids who want to be out there playing hard. Those are things that you can correct.”
Dumas’ spread offense fell flat against the Falcons’ defense. Griswold may be the best quarterback the Falcons see this season, but he had a hard time hitting his targets.
The 6-5, 230-pound junior is already drawing attention from major college programs, including Arkansas.
“It is hard to try to prepare for somebody like that, but what makes it even tougher is he is surrounded by some other great players,” Russell said, mentioning Smith. “We knew that number 22 was going to be a great running back and he’s got some talented receivers as well.”
North Pulaski won’t get a break next week when it plays host to Little Rock Christian and running back Michael Dyer — one of the most sought recruits in the nation.
North Pulaski did end the game on a high note with an 80-yard scoring drive featuring some bruising runs from 5-10, 245-pound Billy Barron.
Barron capped off the drive with a 12-yard run and Mat Ingersoll provided the final margin with his extra-point kick.
“We have a lot of positive things to build on for next week,” Russell said. “Our offensive line did a good job staying on their blocks and our backs ran hard every play.”