Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SPORTS >> Devils battle hard in scrimmage

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils played their annual Red-White game Saturday night at Jan Crow Stadium. Second-year coach Rick Russell split his team up evenly, with an equal amount of starters on each side.

The Red team featured starting quarterback Tirrell Brown, who impressed the coach with a pair of deep passes.

The main offensive highlight was a deep pass over the top to junior tight end Brandon Brockman. Brockman was double covered but had gotten behind the defensive secondary. Brown’s pass fell right into his hands over the outside shoulder in stride.

“He made some really good passes,” Russell said. “I thought he threw the ball really well. He’s got to handle the pressure a little better, but I was very pleased with his overall play.”

Russell said the thing that pleased him the most was the competitiveness of the game.

“The way they competed through the conditions,” Russell said. “It was hot. We were proud of how they went out there and competed hard in that kind of heat and humidity. It gave us some of experience fighting through the fatigue that we’re going to need.”

Besides a few big pass plays and one or two good runs of 15 yards or so, it was the defenses on both sides that seemed to win most of the battles throughout the scrimmage.

“We were really pleased with how the defense ran to the football,” Russell said. “They played good technique, they got in the correct position, and then they made the tackles they needed to make. I think they only missed three or four tackles all night long, with our first stringers.”

Senior linebacker Demerio Williams was all over the field defensively. He was winded towards the end of the game, but he still impressed Russell.

“He was very aggressive and really got after it defensively,” Russell said. “He needs to get in better shape because he’s going to play both ways for us, but he did a great job.”

The main problem in the game was footballs on the ground. Several snaps went awry and starting running back Kevin Richardson fumbled three times.

“We need to work on securing the football,” Russell said. “You got to get the snap to get the play started. We’re in a modified shotgun right now and it’s taking a while to get used to that and the rhythm of the ball being a little closer than normal. I was disappointed in that.”

Russell has a plan to help remedy the problem.

“We’ve been keeping our centers and quarterbacks after practice and snapping 30 or 40 balls,” Russell said. “Well that’s not enough. Now we’re keeping them to snap 60 to 100 balls because we have to get that corrected.”

Jacksonville got its first real look at how its starters handle game situations last night in the Arkansas Activities Association’s benefit scrimmage game against Mills. Look for a recap of that game, plus a preview of the Backyard Brawl season opener at Cabot in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.