Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SPORTS >> Red Devils find two ways to win

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley wanted to start the season using as few two-way players as he possibly could.

But Whatley isn’t about to give back the two-way effort running back/linebacker Keith Mosby turned in against Vilonia on Friday night.

Mosby, a junior, returned an interception for the game’s first touchdown in the 31-21 Jacksonville victory and he rushed for 85 yards and two more scores. He also forced two fumbles, with the Red Devils recovering one, and his two rushing touchdowns came on consecutive possessions after the Eagles had pulled within 17-14 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.

Whatley said Red Devils assistant Jerry Wilson tries to rest Mosby when possible, but sometimes that’s not possible.

“He had a great game and he held up well,” Whatley said. “And it’s hard to leave a kid with that kind of ability sitting over there on the sideline.”

Mosby got Jacksonville started with his interception return on the fourth play of the game. Under pressure from defensive end Nick Nowden, Eagles quarterback Eric Ebmeyer tried a shovel pass that went right to Mosby, who ran 32 yards for the first score with 10:09 left in the first quarter.

With Vilonia threatening late in the game, Mosby was instrumental in the pair of scoring drives that helped Jacksonville clinch it. He handled the ball on the last three plays of the drive that put the Red Devils up 24-14, scoring from the 10, and he carried on the last four plays of the next drive and scored on a four-yard run for the final margin with 3:01 to go in the game.

“He got us started out of the gate well, got an interception,” Whatley said. “Just one of those nights. In the situations where we got down close we were able to get to our big package and he’s the tailback in our big package.”

Whatley agreed Mosby played well on defense and when he touched the ball on offense, but said he wants to see Mosby improve offensively without the ball on things like blocks and carrying out fakes.

“It’s all correctable,” Whatley said. “He’ll get better.”

The Red Devils got an additional boost from the return of receiver Devin Featherston, who missed the opener at Cabot with an ankle sprain.

Featherston, a favorite target of quarterback Logan Perry, had just three receptions for 29 yards, but one was a diving catch of Perry’s 14-yard pass for a first down to set up a second-quarter Jacksonville touchdown. Featherston’s second reception was for 11 yards and a first down as the Red Devils drove for their final score.

“The confidence level that Logan has in him,” Whatley said of Featherston’s impact. “I think he made two big first-down catches for us that we had to have. Of course he’s not 100 percent yet. He’s still got a little limp in his get-along but with his athletic ability and his speed and his hands, he gives you an opportunity to stretch the field a little more.”

Whatley said he still wants to use as many one-way players as possible, especially on the offensive and defensive line. It’s valuable to be able to have both units together on the sidelines to make adjustments, Whatley said, and it’s nice to keep them fresh, especially late in the game.

“Late in the first half, late in the second, we got to standing up defensively,” Whatley said. “And when you stand up they’re going to blow you out of there.”

Vilonia’s double-wing offense was the second straight run-oriented scheme Jacksonville has faced. The Red Devils had to contend with Cabot’s dead T in the season opener and will face a third rushing team at home against Mills this Friday.

The Comets run the veer, and they run it with determination, Whatley said. That makes it more important to keep a defensive line fresh.

“They’re just loaded with athletic ability,” Whatley said. “They can run. The quarterback, the fullback, they believe in what they’re doing. They run a lot of veer. Third and 20 and they run the veer. They know what they’re going to hang their hat on.”

The Red Devils lost to Cabot and beat Vilonia to open last season, and this week Whatley wants to draw the line at repeating history with Mills.

“Last year we came off a win at Vilonia and went to their place and they put it on us pretty good, 31-19,” he said. “We better be ready to play football every Friday.”