Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SPORTS>>Defense carries Red Devils

Leader sportswriter

Mills University Studies matched Jacksonville in the strategy and execution departments, but ultimately proved less conditioned than the Red Devils in Monday night’s scrimmage at Jan Crow Stadium.

The Devils’ defense made a statement in the 30-minute finale by holding dynamic Mills senior quarterback Chris Hampton and the Comets to less than 50 yards, and denied them the red zone on three, first-string possessions.

Jacksonville had offensive struggles of its own early with senior quarterback Logan Perry on the sideline because of back spasms, but as the minutes ticked down, the Comets began to lose their legs. The Red Devils went from running plays that netted short gains and big losses to rolling over the Comets on a seven-play, 70-yard scoring drive, all of it on the ground.

“Second part of the scrimmage, I thought the kids did well,” first-year Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “I’m extremely proud of their effort. I think we showed that we worked on our conditioning. We finished up at the end, so I’m proud of that too.”

Jacksonville’s dominant defensive performance began in the backfield as the Devils subtracted the Comets’ passing game.

Safety Kenny Cummings pulled down two interceptions while also batting away several other Hampton attempts.

“We’ve got three returning starters back there; they should play that way,” Russell said andpraised assistant Larry Burrows.

“Coach Burrows, our secondary coach, does a tremendous job with them. On our defense, we have to check based on the formations and sometimes change coverages, and they did an outstanding job doing that.”

With no passing game, Hampton tried to make things work on the ground, but the Jacksonville linemen dropped the all-state senior for losses several times.

Jacksonville’s defensive line penetration frequently forced Hampton to scramble and make something happen on the run.

“We teach them to base their performance on their alignment,” Russell said. “They’ve got a technique they play once they get lined up there. They’re going to dominate their area, and then they need to run to the ball.”

With Perry sidelined, junior Tirrell Brown took all of the first-string snaps while sophomore Aaron Smith handled the junior varsity. The Red Devils struggled on a few of their shotgun snaps, but the exchanges from Brown to running backs Antwone
Mosby and Terry Gause were mostly clean.

Cummings and fellow receiver D’Vone McClure got in on some of the running plays, the most successful of which was an end-around by McClure that pushed the ball into the red zone for the only time during the 30-minute practice game.

Russell said Perry would be ready to go for Tuesday’s opener against Cabot at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

“He’s nursing a back spasm,” Russell said. “But he’s okay, and we probably could have played him tonight, but we’re not taking any chances.”

Russell deemed the scrimmage an overall success, but also found some areas for improvement.

“We still need to learn how to play the game,” Russell said. “We had too many highs and too many lows — we need to fit right in the middle. We need to forget the last play, whether it was a first down or a touchdown, and go to the next play.”