Saturday, September 26, 2009

SPORTS >> Falcons make lead stand up

Leader sportswriter

Homecoming 2009 turned into a first-half score fest for the North Pulaski Falcons.

The Falcons bullied Little Rock McClellan for 148 first-half yards and four scores, and held the Lions to 34 yards and only 10 offensive plays on their way to a 35-13 victory to start 5A-Southeast Conference play at Falcon Stadium on Friday.

The Falcons (1-3, 1-0) were heavily penalized in the first half, but still won the penalty war. North Pulaski had seven flags for 45 yards in the first half, while the Lions’ poor discipline cost them dearly with nine penalties for 66 yards, many of which came at critical times to aid the Falcons.

“It was a good night,” said Falcons coach Rick Russell, who picked up his first victory as a head coach on Friday. “We had a great day today. The kids were focused on it. The student body, the athletes, the teachers — it was just a great day. We came out here believing we could win.”

The third quarter featured both teams trading possessions on downs. McClellan decided to punt on fourth and 25 from its 6 to end the third, but a high snap turned into a safety for North Pulaski.

McClellan drove the ball to the Falcon 29 on its next possession before Marshall Shipley ended the drive with the second North Pulaski interception of the night. Arlando Hicks got the first interception for the Falcons with 3:19 left in the second quarter.

Hicks covered up Lions receiver Calvin Moore on an end route down the right side and pulled down Terrence Ingram’s pass at the Falcon 41 line and returned it to McClellan’s 41.

Hicks and Shipley also came up big in the first quarter when Hicks blocked a punt by Michael Vincente at the Lions’ 18 and Shipley scooped it up and ran it in for the score to give North Pulaski a 13-0 lead with 6:10 to go in the first period after Mat Ingersoll’s partially-blocked point-after kick still managed to make it through the uprights.

Sophomore quarterback Syheim Barron ran in the first score for the Falcons. Barron capped off a nine-play, 63-yard drive to start the game with a two-yard sneak at the 8:32 mark. Ingersoll’s point-after attempt was wide right.

“The first drive of the last three games, we push it down the field and throw an interception,” Russell said. “We were going to make sure that did not happen tonight. They had some defensive sets that we could take advantage of, and we just ran power football. Running the football was what we were going to do tonight.”

Barron attempted only two passes, both completions to sophomore Derrick Hart in the fourth quarter.

The second completion gave the Falcons their final touchdown of the night from 6 yards out with 6:11 left to play.

Barron scored the second of his three touchdowns with 1:59 left in the first quarter. Darius Cage set up Barron with a 12-yard run that took the ball to the McClellan 4, and Barron snuck in from there to put the Falcons up 19-0 with 1:59 left in the first quarter.

Barron also called his number for the Falcons’ fourth touchdown in the first half. He took North Pulaski to the Lions’ 1-yard line with an option keep down the right side for first-and-goal, and punched it in behind center Lysander Tramble two plays later for the score.

McClellan’s only shining moment in the first half came on a blocked field-goal attempt from the Lions’ 30. Terrance Ingram came in for the block, scooped it up and outran Falcon defender Bradley Bohannon for the touchdown.

Michael Vincente added the extra despite being moved back to the 18 after Ingram was penalized for taunting Bohannon on his way into the end zone. That made the score 26-7 at the half.

The Lions added another late touchdown when Ingram snuck it in from a yard out with 1:25 left to play, but Ingram drew another flag when he spiked the ball in the end zone to give North Pulaski good field position on the ensuing kickoff.

“Right now, it just feels like a win,” Russell said. “After I step back and look at it, I probably wouldn’t know what to say. It’s a football win, and I’m excited for the kids. That’s how I’m looking at it right now.”

North Pulaski finished with 220 total yards and 16 first downs. Billy Barron led with nine carries for 92 yards, while Syheim Barron kept 19 times for 72 yards and three touchdowns, along with two completions for 16 yards and another score.

McClellan finished with 132 total yards, 98 of which came in the second half. Running back Cleo Gray had 10 carries for 49 yards to lead the Lions.

The Falcons will play at Beebe next Friday, while McClellan will travel to Monticello.