Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SPORTS >> Badgers, Falcons face off

Leader sports writer

The momentum has been perhaps slower to build than in recent years, but Beebe’s dramatic 18-12 double-overtime victory at Crossett last week gave the Badgers their first victory of the season, and started their 5A-Southeast campaign on the right track.

They will try to keep momentum on their side this week when they host North Pulaski for homecoming at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium on Friday.

The Falcons are also coming off a big conference-opening victory, their first of the season, against Little Rock McClellan at Falcon homecoming last week.

Beebe won the 2007 and 2008 meetings between the teams.

“The whole community always comes out for homecoming; it’s been a big deal for a long time,” said Beebe coach John Shannon, who played as a Badger in the mid-1980s. “The whole town shuts down for the parade. It’s such a big deal for everyone.

“This is a big game for both of us. We’re both 1-0 in conference. Whoever wins this one takes a big step towards making the playoffs, so it should be a good ballgame.”

Beebe had its chances in all three non-conference games to start the season, but came up short. Turnovers were the main culprit, along with defensive letdowns at inopportune times. Shannon said improved defense was one of the biggest keys to last week’s victory over Crossett.

“The big thing was that our defense played better,” Shannon said. “It kept us in the game. Our defense held them out in the red zone on one drive, and I think we held them to eight yards total rushing.”

Another tangible Shannon has emphasized to his team is penalties. The Badgers gave additional opportunities to Greenbrier with badly-timed penalties, but have cut down on flags each week.

North Pulaski was still struggling with minimizing penalties as of last week. In the Falcons’ victory over McClellan, they were penalized seven times for 45 yards in the first half alone.

“We talk about that every week and pride ourselves on being a disciplined team,” Shannon said. “When you’re young like us, you try to make the least amount of mistakes and try not to get stupid penalties. It’s cost us three ballgames.

They’ve stopped us on touchdowns, kept drives alive for the other team – it’s been very damaging.”

It’s been a season of highs and lows so far for both teams, but injuries have not been a significant factor for Beebe or North Pulaski. The Badgers benefited from the return of senior defensive back/running Victor Howell last week against Crossett, while Falcon junior Darius Cage is the team’s only banged-up player and has sustained injures the past two weeks.

Howell’s injury was a stretched ligament in the back of his knee.

“We got him back against Crossett,” Shannon said. “He wasn’t back up to full speed, but he was still a threat. It doesn’t require surgery, it just needs a brace. He will get faster each passing week. He’s just a little bit limited right now.”

It will be the first time the teams have met this early in the season, and the first time for both teams to be considered players in the 5A-Southeast Conference at the same time.

“Anytime you get in conference, every week is important,” Shannon said. “Hopefully we can go out there and take care of business. When you play someone else that is 1-0 in conference, the winner will have the upper hand later in the season if it happens to come down to a tiebreaker or points to see who makes the playoffs.”