Saturday, October 30, 2010

SPORTS>>Blue Devils bump Red Devils

By todd traub
Leader sports editor

Jacksonville closed the gap on West Memphis, just not all the way Friday night.

West Memphis set itself up for a 7A/6A-East Conference championship while denying Jacksonville its chance with a 37-13 victory at Jan Crow Stadium.

West Memphis beat Jacksonville 42-0 last year and seemed on its way to another rout with a 21-0 halftime lead. But under first-year coach Rick Russell, the Red Devils came back for two second-half scores, one on Kenny Cummings’ 52-yard fumble return, to at least make a fight of it.

“We were going for a conference championship, that’s what we’ve said all year long and they’re sad that didn’t happen tonight,” Russell said.

“But I’ll tell you what, right now we’re going to take care of Marion and get the highest seed that we can possibly get and then go into the playoffs thinking anything can happen in the 6A.”

Jacksonville is already assured of at least a playoff game, probably a home game and maybe more heading into the finale at Marion.

“Based on the points you’re never 100 percent sure but I’m 99 percent sure we’ll have a home playoff game,” Russell said. “Depending on what we do next week and depending on the season we might even have a bye.”

West Memphis was moved to 7A in the last round of Arkansas Activities Association reclassification and will compete in the 7A playoffs, but under the current alignment competes in the 7A/6A-East and can earn power rating points for a conference title.

“We have a chance to be conference champs, it’s a big deal,” West Memphis coach Lanny Dauksch said.

Whether playing in 6A or 7A, West Memphis has been a force the past several years, averaging 10 victories a season and making regular trips to the postseason.

With that in mind, Russell was pleased with the way the Red Devils (6-3, 4-2) hung in with the Blue Devils, who played most if not all of their starters right up until quarterback Aaron Collins took a knee with two seconds left to run out the clock.

“They’ve always been on the borderline,” Russell said of West Memphis’ swing between 6A and 7A. “And it’s just a dadgum shame the Triple A wouldn’t stick to their guns and put the top 16 in 7A and the next 16 in 6A. You could tell.

“But you could tell our kids had a lot of heart.”

West Memphis led 21-0 at halftime with help from a trick play just before halftime and built that to 29-0 on Quintin Sparkman’s 10-yard run and D.J. Alverson’s conversion with 4:14 left in the third quarter.

Jacksonville’s D’Vone McClure returned the kickoff 18 yards to the Red Devils 28 and scored behind the passing of Logan Perry, who was 5 for 5 on the possession for 73 yards.

Perry completed consecutive passes of four, two and 21 yards, then completed his fourth straight 37 yards to Jamison Williams for the touchdown that cut it to 29-7 with 53 seconds left in the period.

Perry was gunning for McClure when Sparkman intercepted and returned it 57 yards for West Memphis’ final score that, with the conversion, made it 37-7 with 6:46 to go in the game.

Jacksonville’s last touchdown came when Cummings forced and scooped up Deondre Curtis’ fumble and ran it down the right sideline with 3:40 to go.

“We’ve always had trouble over here,” Dauksch said. “I think one time we had an easy time and every other time it’s been a battle. It’s great to be able to win against a good team.”

The first quarter was a scoreless, defensive slugfest in which West Memphis didn’t grab the game’s first, first down until Sparkmon fought for a six-yard gain to the Jacksonville 25 with under 2:30 left in the period.

The drive began at the Jacksonville 40 thanks to Deontae Mitchell’s 27-yard punt return. The Blue Devils marched to the Red Devils 6, then Deondre Curtis scored on a double reverse and made it 6-0, after the conversion run failed, with 11:49 left in the half.