SPORTS >> Red Devils try to flag down victory
By TODD TRAUB
Leader sports editor
It may be no consolation to Jacksonville and coach Mark Whatley, but the Red Devils are keeping pretty good company — company like the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Los Angels Angels.
As SEC officials and Major League umpires were being taken to task last week for multiple blown calls — some affecting the Razorbacks against No. 1 Florida and the Angels in the Major League playoffs against the New York Yankees — Jacksonville suffered a costly, questionable call of its own in last week’s 26-21 loss to Little Rock Parkview.
Parkview scored the winning touchdown with 7:07 left, but the drive was aided by a late, controversial pass interference call on the Red Devils’ D’Vone McClure.
The flag came at least five seconds after a deep pass near midfield fell incomplete, with McClure on the coverage and apparently in good defensive position. The 15-yard penalty extended the Patriots’ drive and led to Christopher McClendon’s 10-yard touchdown run.
“We’re sitting there third and 18 and they throw up a prayer and that prayer got answered with a pass interference call,” Whatley said. It looked like a no-call to me. That’s the way it turned out.
“It’s a shame, but by the same token there’s probably points throughout the game we could have overcome it and it not be an issue.”
Whatley also felt defender Nick Nowden was mauled on a hold that wasn’t called as Parkview scored its final touchdown.
“They absolutely tore Nick Nowden’s jersey off him,” Whatley said.
Jacksonville (1-7, 1-4) almost shook off the mishaps with some late heroics, but with 5 yards to go for a score and 20 seconds left, the Red Devils surrendered a sack of Logan Perry for a 15-yard loss. They hurried to the line and snapped the ball with 6 seconds left, but Perry’s final pass sailed out of the end zone incomplete.
“It’s like I told them after the game, ‘Nobody can question your guts and nobody can question your commitment to fight for four quarters,’ ” Whatley said. “If that’s what this game is supposed to teach them, then they’ve learned it.”
Whatley pointed out Jacksonville ultimately had itself to blame for the loss, thanks to plays like the interception Parkview returned for a touchdown.
“We’ve done that too much this year,” Whatley said. “Dadgum it, we’ve got to take care of the ball.”
The challenges continue this week as Jacksonville travels to West Memphis.
The Blue Devils (8-0, 5-0) are outscoring opponents by an average 23.8 points a game, 32.6 in conference. West Memphis effectively runs the wing T while its defense is effectively fast, Whatley said.
“Defensively they run all over the field,” Whatley said. “Their defensive tackles are as fast as our wideouts.”