Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SPORTS>>Victory perks up Falcons

By todd traub
Leader sports editor

The only thing different around North Pulaski football this week may be the smiles.

The Falcons posted their first victory of the year and a season-high points total with a 38-13 romp over Crossett on Friday at Falcons Field.

“Hopefully it changes the mentality,” coach Terrod Hatcher said. “It won’t change the way we practice.”

The victory was a personalpick-me-up for Hatcher too. It was his first as a head coach since he was promoted from offensive coordinator in August.

As much as he wants to keep things all business, Hatcher admitted a few people took note of his milestone. He even got a congratulatory text message from Pulaski County Special School District athletic director Kevin Downing.

“Everybody has been excited about it,” Hatcher said. “We knew it was going to be a tough year this year.”

That has made it that much more fun for the Falcons (1-7, 1-4 5A-Southeast Conference) as they have begun preparations for this week’s game at Mills. Mills (7-1, 4-1) is coming off its first loss of the year, 22-15, to first-place Watson Chapel.

“They’re excited about winning,” Hatcher said. “Hopefully that will help us when we get to play one of the best teams in the conference. We’re going to need all the help we can get.”

Mills is averaging 32.9 points a game while allowing 15.6. North Pulaski is scoring an average 9.9 points a game while giving up 34.5, but the averages could have been worse if not for Friday.

Not coincidentally, North Pulaski’s best offensive night of the year came on the legs of its best rushing game.

Senior fullback Darius Cage rushed nine times for 113 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback/running back Derrick Hart gained 117 yards on 15 carries and scored twice. “It just all came together,” Hatcher said. “We’ve been building on the dive play a little bit. We just had to pull out the horses. We knew the A-gap would be open.”

Hatcher said he offensive line stepped up its efforts and a running back rotation kept his hard working backs rested.

“I had a couple groups of running backs and we just rotated them,” Hatcher said. “By keeping those guys fresh that helped the dive very well.”

The Falcons’ previous best points total came in the 36-12 loss to Pulaski Oak Grove on Week 2 but North Pulaski had been showing signs of closing the gap. In its 16-8 loss to Sylvan Hills the previous week, North Pulaski had its chances and even had possession with a chance to tie late, but penalties and other mistakes proved costly.

That’s something the Falcons, despite the victory, are still trying to clean up this week. North Pulaski committed 15 penalties for 98 yards in its victory, with 11 of them offensive motion penalties.

“You’ve just got to keep emphasizing focus, focus, focus,” Hatcher said. “I think all year we’ve probably had 100 yards of penalties in every game and that’s not good. That hurts in those games like Sylvan Hills and White Hall where we’ve had a chance to win.”

But at least the Falcons now have a victory on which to build, for the remainder of this year and on into next season, Hatcher said.

“Next year is going to be a pretty good year,” he said. “We’re not going to change anything. We’re just going to do what we do.”