Tuesday, September 07, 2010

SPORTS>>Lonoke is busing for battle at Beebe

Leader sportswriter

The battle for Highway 31 supremacy between Lonoke and Beebe is an annual fight to the finish.

And finishing is what concerns both coaches as they head into Friday’s game. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Bro Erwin Field in Beebe.

Lonoke coach Doug Bost is concerned with how the Jackrabbits’ defense will respond to a grinding rushing attack late in the game while Badgers coach John Shannon wants to see his offense close out promising drives more consistently.

Greenbrier beat Beebe 39-13 last week, getting two scores after Beebe drives stalled for a 28-point swing that made the game appear less competitive.

“You convert just half of those opportunities we had, and it’s a different ballgame,” Shannon said. “The first game of the season, you expect a lot of mistakes, and some of those mistakes cost us.”

Lonoke upset Star City in Pine Bluff on Aug. 30, but not before a fourth-quarter Bulldogs rally almost overcame the Jackrabbits’ 19-point lead. Star City scored 18 straight points on the ’Rabbits’ winded defense before Lonoke clinched it with a long running play.

“They started out early passing, and then in the second half, they run it right at us,” Bost said as he critiqued his defensive front.

“Of those front seven on defense, there’s only two guys with a lot of experience. Some of those guys are going to have to step up.”

Bost hopes his defensive linemen step up sooner rather than later with the short road trip to Beebe coming up Friday. Last year the Jackrabbits ended a four-year losing streak to a young Beebe team that was smaller on the offensive line.

“It seems like it always comes down to the fourth quarter with us, and it wasn’t any different last year,” Bost said. “Shannon does a good job, you know, smash-mouth style football — you know what’s coming at you. It’s going to be close. Our defense will get tested this week.”

Beebe’s loss to Lonoke last year was part of a trying 3-7 season that came after the Badgers reached the playoffs the previous two seasons thanks in part to victories over their nearby rivals.

Shannon said he was not as worried about Lonoke’s defensive line as he was his offense’s ability to finish drives.

“Our defense gave up points last week, but a lot of that was our offense putting us in a bind by not finishing,” Shannon said.

“We told the kids on Saturday morning that it was time to go back to work. Hopefully, it will be a different turnout.”

The Badgers moved the ball consistently against Greenbrier but struggled to get into the end zone. Scot Gowen overthrew a sure touchdown pass and another drive went 15 plays but stalled at the Greenbrier 1-yard line.

“I feel like we can move the ball against anyone we play,” Shannon said. “My concern is finishing the drive. We had one drive last week where we came up a yard short.

“Yeah, we want to take time off the clock and keep them off the field, but it doesn’t do any good if you don’t score.”

Beebe senior fullback Colby Taylor, 6-0, 160, caught Bost’s attention on film, but it was Gowen’s abilities on the ground and through the air that has him most concerned.

“It’s the same stuff they’ve been doing since he got there,” Bost said. “That No. 4, Colby Taylor, of course he’s their best runner and the fastest. He can go if he breaks a long one on you, but that number 12 at quarterback, if he gets out of the pocket, he can run it on you or pass it on the run. He’s definitely a dual threat.”

Bost blamed some of last week’s fourth-quarter defensive woes on the 5:30 p.m. kickoff in the late-afternoon heat, but he is rotating his defensive linemen more frequently. Bost was pleased with the work of senior Antwane Wilkerson and juniors Brendon Ellington and Darin Lovelace.

“Statistically, no, there’s not going to be big numbers there,” Bost said. “But I was real pleased with how they freed things up for the linebackers to make plays. They’re going to have to step up again this week against a team that’s coming right at you.”