Tuesday, October 05, 2010

SPORTS>>Red Devils head to Hall

By Todd traub
Leader sports editor

No one likes to lose, but if you have to go down you better learn from it.

That has been the approach of Rick Russell and the Jacksonville Red Devils following their 34-20, 7A/6A-East Conference loss to Jonesboro last week.

The Red Devils had won three straight entering the game and already surpassed last year’s victory total of two. But Jacksonville(3-2, 1-1) had trouble containing Jonesboro running back Zac Brooks, who rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns.

“We tried to put it behind us but it was not a good taste in our mouth,” Jacksonville coach Russell said. “We got used to winning. Winning is a lot more fun that losing. I’m glad the kids aren’t satisfied with their performance.”

Brooks, an Arkansas recruit, showed why the Hogs have offered him a scholarship as he broke loose for 74 yards on nine carries during the Jonesboro scoring drive that opened the second half of last week’s game.

Jonesboro’s power sweep, and how to defend it, will be on the minds of the Red Devils this week as they travel to Little Rock 

Hall for another conference game.

“They run a very similar play to what the Jonesboro running back was running at us,” Russell said. “We’ve got to be very good in space, very focused in space and in the secondary we’ve got to be fundamentally sound.

“They try to get outside a lot and they also have the inside power game and the throwing game so again it’s going to be a three dimensional football team.”

Hall (1-4, 1-1) is coming off a 50-35 victory over Mountain Home, a team Jacksonville has already beaten. Hall ended a 13-game losing streak with the victory and features a cluster of running backs that includes speedy Aaron Walton, who has major college ability and a brother, A.J., who plays basketball at Baylor.

 “As a defensive coaching staff we understand now some things we can do and can’t do to protect the power sweep,” Russell said. “But you can’t fault the kids. The kids played as hard as they can play.

“We made some corrections and we learned from that. Hall is going to be very similar to Jonesboro and Hot Springs in the fact that they’re going to run those power sweeps. They’ve got about three or four good backs.”

D’Vone McClure had 12 receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns against Jonesboro and quarterback Logan Perry was 26 of 42 for 233 yards and a touchdown despite getting sacked four times for 24 yards in losses.

“We learned that when we take care of the football and execute we can move the football on offense and we can score quickly if we need to,” Russell said.

In the first five games Jacksonville has shown its quick-strike ability in two-minute drills before halftime. Russell said he’d like to see that same sense of purpose throughout the game.

“We need to understand that we need to have that sense of urgency for the whole football game,” Russell said. “I think we also learned that mental preparation plays a big role in how you perform, especially at the start of the football game.”

Russell, Jacksonville’s one-time defensive coordinator who returned to the program as head coach this year, said the Red 
Devils tried to stay in their base defense and account for everything, but got themselves in some numerical mismatches at times against Jonesboro’s sweep.

That’s something Russell hopes to correct through game planning and practice this week.

“It’s correctable mistakes,” Russell said. “When an offensive team lines up in specific formations and you scout that opponent, all the different plays they can run out of different formations, you’ve got to be able to cover all those plays, each play.

“They’re just going to run one of them.”