Tuesday, August 25, 2009

SPORTS >> A new coach gets first look at new team

Leader sportswriter

The Rick Russell era of North Pulaski football began with a pair of hard-fought scrimmages against Greenbrier and Pulaski Robinson, and ended with a scary arm injury to sophomore running back Derrick Hart.

“There’s some things to build on,” said Russell, a long-time defensive coordinator at Jacksonville High who took over for Tony Bohannon in the spring. “There are things we will have to correct, but overall I thought it was a good night for us. After we watch the film, we will have more positives and negatives to address.”

The Falcons trailed 6-0 late in the scrimmage against Robinson when linebacker Vinnie Osmun recovered a Senator fumble.

Hart gave the Falcons a spark, breaking for an eight-yard run, followed by a 12-yard run on a pitch left. They called his number again, but on an off-tackle run, Hart’s right arm made contact with a Robinson player’s face. The game was called with just over a minute left, and Hart was taken to a nearby hospital, where he had 25 stitches put in just below his elbow. He is expected to be out for at least two weeks.

“That was a very scary situation,” said Russell. “It could have been a lot worse. You always worry about exposing the joint or infection, but Children’s Hospital did a good job of getting that young man patched up.” Hart returned to school the following day on Tuesday.

The Falcons moved the ball well in their first scrimmage against Greenbrier, picking up 172 yards. But the Falcons were able to turn that into only one score on a 62-yard sprint down the right sideline by Darrius Washington.

Washington also had big plays on the defensive side. The Panthers moved the ball methodically out of the spread, going on a 14-play drive starting at their own 30 on their first possession, but Washington pulled down an interception in the end zone to stop the threat. A fumble gave the ball right back to Greenbrier, which then scored on a halfback draw from 22 yards out.

Junior Billy Barron had four runs for 20 yards from his fullback position, but it was the defensive side where he came up big.

Barron had eight tackles including two for no gain.

“He’s an aggressive young man, and he likes to make contact,” said Russell. “For a big fellow, he moves well. I was proud of what Billy did.”

The Panthers added two scores in the second half on passes of 53 yards and 16 yards. The 16-yard strike came in the final two minutes on fourth and 11.

The Falcons found moving the ball more difficult against Robinson’s physical defense. Penalties and high snaps also counted against them, as North Pulaski finished with 57 yards of offense.

Robinson scored the only touchdown of the second scrimmage on its first drive of the second half. The Senators went 72 yards on 10 plays, and eventually punched it in from one-yard out.

Sophomore quarterback Shyheim Barron displayed maturity on the field. He went 6 of 7 passing for 35 yards, and fell on a pair of snap miscues to avoid turnovers. His biggest play of the night, however, was early in the first scrimmage when he broke free for a 26-yard keeper.

“He got a lot of game-time experience,” said Russell. “You improve the most from your first game to your second game, and he was able to get a lot of reps out there.”

Senior Marshall Shipley saw time under center near the end of each scrimmage.

Darius Cage made a pair of stops in the first scrimmage against Greenbrier, while sophomore Nick Dunn turned in a solid defensive effort against Robinson.

Russell said he was also pleased with the effort from senior receiver/cornerback Arlando Hicks, who had five receptions for 32 yards and broke up a pass in the end zone against Greenbrier.