Monday, September 20, 2010

SPORTS >> Eagles bruise Badgers behind ground game

IN SHORT: Vilonia content to keep ball in hands of backs.

Leader sportswriter

Beebe had little choice but to win the time-of-possession war.

That was thanks to a Vilonia offense that proved it needed little time to strike, as senior quarterback Drew Knowles led an Eagle ground assault that steamrolled to a 41-14 victory over the Badgers at Phillip D. Weaver Stadium on Friday night.

Vilonia ground out 396 total yards behind Knowles, who led all rushers with 17 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns and was content to keep the ball on the ground with no pass attempts.

Beebe (0-3) carried out its game plan of sustained drives through the first three quarters. But when the Badgers found themselves down 26-14 late in the third, quarterback Scot Gowen went to the air with disastrous results, as the Eagles grabbed back-to-back interceptions.

“Our offensive line did a great job,” Vilonia coach Jim Stanley said.
“And Drew Knowles did a good job of leading the option for us tonight. We’re still making too many mistakes, but overall, I was happy.”

Beebe took its first drives of each half for scores and held the ball longer than Vilonia. The Badgers’ running game was fairly consistent, but Gowen’s 0 of 6 performance through the air, the two interceptions, and a near interception thrown by backup Jordan Brockway, put Beebe’s biggest offensive weakness on display.

“We were banged up from the Lonoke game coming in,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “The kids fought hard, and we had opportunities, but we missed assignments here and there. That came back to bite us.”

Beebe lost momentum on a drive just before the end of the first half when Gowen was injured on a keeper that moved the ball to the Vilonia 25-yard line following a personal foul penalty against Vilonia.

Brockway led the offense most of the third quarter and put together the Badgers’ final scoring drive of the night to start the second half.

Beebe started at its 20 following a touchback by Vilonia junior kicker James Gardner, but halfback Jay Holdway bought some room with runs of three and four yards to the Badger 27.

The Badgers used short gains to fight their way to midfield before Holdway broke free on Beebe’s longest run of the night on a 50-yard scoring play that cut Vilonia’s lead to 20-14 with 7:21 left in the half.

Taylor led the Badgers with 23 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown while Gowen had 10 carries for 71 yards. Beebe had 244 yards of offense.

Vilonia showed its own clock-grinding ability with a 12-play, 72 yard scoring drive on its first possession. Running back James Sax established himself as a useful decoy while Knowles chalked up runs of 14 and 16 yards and his 15-yard touchdown run with 6:18 left in the first quarter.

Beebe one-upped its host with a 14-play, 73-yard scoring drive that ran the first-quarter clock to under 30 seconds. Jordan Doss added the extra point and the Badgers took their only lead, 7-6.

But the Eagles dominated the second quarter with two unanswered scoring drives. Knowles continued to strike with keeps set up by fakes to Sax and Lewis. The senior quarterback ended up with 12 carries for 118 yards in the first half along with two touchdowns.

His biggest play, a 38-yard run midway through the second quarter, was part of what turned out to be the Eagles’ only drive that ended without a score. Beebe’s defense held on fourth and one at the Badgers 11 to take over on downs.

Lewis gave the Eagles their second score on a 19-yard run that capped a brief four-play, 45-yard drive, and Knowles scored with 3:02 left in the first half on a two-yard run to give Vilonia a 20-7 lead.

The Eagles finished the first half with 228 yards, all on the ground.

After a pair of physical games, Shannon said some mending time is needed.

“We’ll have to get well in a hurry,” Shannon said looking ahead to the 5A-East Conference schedule. “And we’ve got to get some mistakes fixed. The real season starts next week.”