Monday, September 27, 2010

SPORTS >> Devils prevail in prime time

IN SHORT: Defense keeps Bombers out of end zone while offense strikes with short-pass game in league opener.

By Todd Traub
Leader sports editor

At first Jacksonville seemed intent on shooting itself in the foot on statewide television Thursday night. The Red Devils even used explosives.

But Jacksonville turned in big plays on both sides of the ball to beat Mountain Home 26-2 in the 7A/6A-East Conference opener at Jan Crow Stadium. It was also the Red Devils’ home opener and the game was broadcast live on KARZ-TV.

“We’re proud of our whole football team,” first-year coach Rick Russell said. “The coaching staff did a great job, had a good game plan and we’re just looking forward to keeping on in the same direction.”

Antwone Mosby rushed for two touchdowns and D’Vone McClure rushed for one and caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Logan Perry. The defense got four sacks and a fumble recovery to lift Jacksonville (3-1, 1-0) to its third straight victory after winning just two games all of last year.

“It’s going good,” Russell said. “I just want to get out of the blocks better. I want to start better offensively and defensively.”

Jacksonville looked like it might flunk its small-screen test thanks to early mistakes.

The Red Devils squandered Chris Woods’ game-opening, 74-yard kickoff return on an offsides penalty and Perry’s fumble when Justin Linck sacked him from behind.

Jacksonville committed two more penalties on Mountain Home’s ensuing possession, but the Red Devils held when Justin Hamilton sacked Tommy Felicia on fourth and eight after the Bombers had worked their way to the Red Devils’ 28.

“Sometimes in games like this it overwhelms the kids,” Russell said of the atmosphere surrounding the broadcast and home opener. “We’ve just got to be able to focus on what we’re doing, block everything else out and then execute. In the second half we did a better job of that.”
Jacksonville went on to score its first touchdown on a 9-yard run by Mosby, then the fireworks cannon used to celebrate home scores was set off and startled a Jacksonville player into jumping offsides before the extra-point attempt.

Referees appeared ready to ignore the infraction because of its cause, but after meeting with both coaches the offsides call stood, and Xavier Brown kicked the extra point from the extended distance to make it 7-0 with 11:52 left in the first quarter.

“They stopped the game; they were just going to reset,” Russell said. “But they went ahead and gave us the penalty because it was a penalty. Just like the mistakes on the football field, we need to not make that mistake anymore when we shoot fireworks.”

The Red Devils would go on to lose two more fumbles and suffer a safety on a punt snap through the end zone that made it 13-2 with 7:03 left in the third quarter.

But thanks to a group effort by the skill players and the defense, Jacksonville scored more than enough.

“We made plays on offense when we needed to make plays and the defense kept them out of the end zone,” Russell said. “When they got that safety we came right back and stopped them.
“Sudden changes, any time you get turnovers like that and the defense comes out and plays well and stops them you’ve got to feel good about that.”

Mosby recovered a fumble for the Red Devils and Demeris Williams and Ronnie Haydon got sacks to end drives while Erin Davis got a sack to force a third and long situation.

“They bent a little bit but they didn’t break,” Russell said of the performance by his defense.
“The safety got us a little momentum and we had some good field position and couldn’t punch it in,” Mountain Home coach Benji Mahan said. “So I’ve got to give credit to Jacksonville’s defense. They played real well.”

On offense, the Red Devils scored on a 7-yard completion from Perry to McClure to make it 13-0 with five seconds left in the third quarter. Mosby added a nine-yard touchdown run and McClure ran 13 yards for the final score in the fourth quarter.

Perry finished with 217 passing yards, with much of the yardage coming after catches as the Red Devils’ skill players consistently broke or slipped tackles.

Jamison Williams spun and fought through tackles for a 10-yard first-down completion on Jacksonville’s first scoring drive and Perry scrambled to create an opening on his 12-yard first-down pass to McClure.

McClure broke tackles on a 27-yard catch and run during Jacksonville’s second scoring possession, then he made a leaping catch for a 7-yard touchdown play just before halftime.