Monday, September 27, 2010

SPORTS >> Lonoke unbeaten after furious finish

IN SHORT: Onside kick key to Jackrabbits’ rally past Paragould in league opener.

By Jason King
Leader sportswriter

Lonoke seemed intent on finding a way to lose against Heber Springs until the final three minutes of the game.

Then the Jackrabbits finally found a way to win.

Lonoke recovered an onsides kick and Keli Bryant scored on a 30-yard run as Lonoke rallied for a 21-18 victory, scoring two touchdowns in the final 2:55 at James B. Abraham Stadium on Friday.

“We preach teamwork; they just never gave up,” Jackrabbits coach Doug Bost said. “It was looking bad there for a little bit, but the kids kept fighting and competing. Boy, I’ll tell you, we got the ball in some playmakers hands. That’s the biggest O- and D-line I hope we’ll see all year, but my guys were able to hang in there.”

Sophomore sensation Eric Williams sliced through the Panthers’ hands team to recover the onsides kick and pulled the ball down at the Heber Springs’ 41-yard line.

From there, Darius Scott ran for an 11-yard gain, and Bryant went the remaining 30 yards fothe winning score with 2:36 left to play.

Scott’s 79-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Logan DeWhitt with 2:55 left to play pulled the ’Rabbits within a score following a stalled Heber Springs drive at the Lonoke 21-yard line, and Williams recovered the onside kick to set up the dramatic conclusion as Lonoke began 2-4A Conference play.

“Two touchdowns in one minute — I don’t think very many Heber Springs people will sleep tonight,” Panthers coach Steve Janski said. “Poor tackling in the secondary, something I though we did a great job of doing in the first half and the first part of the second half. We haven’t finished a game yet.”

The Jackrabbits (4-0, 1-0) had a chance to take command on their second drive of the third quarter when they drove down to the Panthers’ 6, but back-to-back motion penalties, followed by a fumbled snap by DeWhitt that resulted in a 14-yard loss backed Lonoke up to the 30 where the drive stalled.

Heber Springs took a two-score advantage with 8:06 left in the third quarter when standout running back Markyvus Mays ran four yards to make it 18-7. But the Panthers (2-2, 0-1) fought their own demons in the form of missed two-point conversions and 11 penalties for 78 yards.

Lonoke’s passing game was ineffective in the second half, as DeWhitt, who threw a pair of first-half interceptions, completed a pass to Scott for 18 yards before throwing six straight incompletions. But his pass to Scott on the right side with Lonoke trailing 18-7 was the Jackrabbits’ biggest play of the night, and improved DeWhitt’s numbers to 8 of 17 for 183 yards and two touchdowns.

Bryant struggled to 16 yards on four carries in the first half, but the junior found something to start the second half when he broke free for a 30-yard gain up the middle, and finished with 16 carries for 80 yards.

“We went with a different direction to start the game, and it wasn’t working,” Bost said.
“He’s a downhill runner, there’s no question about it, and he ran the ball hard for us.”
Scott showed his usual versatility with 227 all-purpose yards that included 14 carries for 78 yards, a number of runs from under center, and four receptions for 149 yards and two touchdowns. DeWhitt, Scott and Bryant accounted for all but three of the Jackrabbits’ 341 total yards.

Heber Springs finished with 330 yards, led by Mays’ 28 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

The Panthers struck first with a short drive that was set up when Scott fumbled a punt following a stalled Heber Springs drive at its own 35-yard line. Clint Ligon came up with the loose ball at the Lonoke 25 with 1:52 left in the first quarter.

The Jackrabbit defense held the Panthers to fourth down at the 17, but quarterback Landon Glover found Geoffrey Anderson for a six-yard completion that gave Heber Springs a new set of downs at the 11-yard line. Mays then carried to the 4, and punched it in on the following play to start the second quarter.

Antwone Wilkerson stuffed Mays on the two-point try to leave it at 6-0.

It took only two plays for the ’Rabbits to answer. The Panthers squibbed the kickoff to set Lonoke up with a first down at its own 47-yard line.

Scott carried it into Heber Springs territory with a four-yard run, and took it all the way from 49 yards out on the following play when DeWhitt found him on a swing route from the left side with nothing but clean field in front of him. That tied the score at 6-6 with 11:34 left to play in the second quarter, and T.J. Scott’s successful point-after kick gave the ’Rabbits a 7-6 lead.

The Panthers drove down to the Jackrabbits’ 9-yard line on their ensuing drive but came up empty handed. Darius Scott broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth down with assistance from Blake Dill to give possession back to Lonoke.

Heber Springs also turned the ball over on its next possession when T.J. Scott recovered a fumble by Mays at the Panthers’ 38-yard line. Jesse Lawrence got the ball back for the Panthers three plays later when he intercepted a DeWhitt pass at the Heber Springs 20 and returned it out to its own 42-yard line.