Tuesday, September 07, 2010

SPORTS>>Regrouping Falcons get set to face Hornets

Leader sports editor

It might not have been an altogether enjoyable experience for North Pulaski, but it was experience nonetheless.

Searcy beat North Pulaski 56-0 in coach Terrod Hatcher’s debut, and while it was a disappointing start, Hatcher at least had something to build on entering this week’s preparation for Pulaski Oak Grove.

“You get to see your personnel and see what changes you need to make,” Hatcher said. “It’s getting these guys experience.

Friday we started six sophomores, that says a lot about the talent on the team.”

Searcy quarterback Dezmond Stegall passed for 214 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for close to 100 yards while Lions receiver B.J. Slaughter caught two touchdown passes, grabbed two interceptions and returned a punt for a score.

Jacob Mowrer added two, second-half touchdown catches for Searcy.

Hatcher said the Lions’ big plays might have taught his youthful team something about playing assignment football.

“We’ve got to follow assignments, that’s what it boils down to,” Hatcher said. “Everybody has to understand they’ve got a specific job and if everybody had followed their job, that score would have been totally different.”

North Pulaski suffered four interceptions and two other turnovers. With the offense struggling, the defense was frequently forced to defend a short field and gave up a touchdown early in the second half on fourth and 11.

North Pulaski is a member of the 5A-Southeast Conference and was playing 7A/6A-East member Searcy, but Hatcher wasn’t looking for any excuses after playing a team from a higher classification.

“Don’t get me wrong. We played an excellent team in Searcy,” Hatcher said. “They’re a good team. I didn’t get to pick that schedule. You get the hand you’re dealt.”

Besides, Hatcher said, just getting on the field and playing a game was good for the Falcons, regardless of Friday’s outcome.

“Of course, after experience you start to play better and you start trusting yourself,” Hatcher said and admitted he had anticipated a few mistakes in the opener. “It’s expected but it’s not acceptable.”

Hatcher said the Falcons got back to work Monday, and he felt the team’s attitude and outlook were good despite the loss.

“They’re disappointed in themselves and they’re excited about getting back out there,” Hatcher said.

And there were bright spots for the Falcons. Hatcher singled out rover Nick Dunn, who forced one fumble and recovered another.

“He did exactly what as he was told,” Hatcher said. “He did his position and it showed.”

Hatcher said Dunn stands as an example to the rest of his team of what it means to stick to an assignment, and he said Dunn brought his practice performance to game night.

“He performed in practice excellent,” said Hatcher, North Pulaski’s offensive coordinator last season. “He didn’t perform last year as he did in practice. I made a personal challenge to him.”

Oak Grove is coming off a resounding, 48-6 victory over Little Rock Christian, which is also on North Pulaski’s schedule on Sept. 17.

Little Rock Christian may be down a bit after graduating Arkansas’ all-time high school career rushing leader Michael Dyer, now at Auburn. However that didn’t stop Hatcher from being impressed by Oak Grove, led by dual-threat quarterback Trooper Tolbert.

“Truthfully, I think they’re better than Searcy,” Hatcher said. “They have some extremely good athletes. They’re athletic; they’re huge.

“It’s just a point of slowing them down. I don’t think you can stop that offense. They have some great backs. If they get outside you might as well call it a day, they’re gone. They have an excellent quarterback. He can run; he can throw.”

Hatcher admitted he inherited a tough non-conference schedule when he was named head coach at the start of preseason. But he feels the stretch should make the Falcons better in time for the conference opener at West Helena on Sept. 24.

“We’re going to survive and get through it,” Hatcher said.