Saturday, October 01, 2011

SPORTS>>Defense does it for Beebe

Leader sportswriter

Defense saved the day for Beebe as the Badgers ground out a 25-12 win over Forrest City at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium on Friday to stay unbeaten in the 5A East Conference.

The Badgers (4-1, 2-0) moved the ball at will in the first half, but halftime adjustments on defense by the Mustangs (0-4-1, 0-2) allowed them to hold Beebe to less than 100 yards of offense in the second half.

Forrest City also had its chances to overtake Beebe’s 19-12 halftime lead, but fumbled the ball away at the Badger 9-yard line midway through the third quarter, and gave up an interception and 49-yard touchdown return by senior cornerback Dakota Lovston with 4:31 to play.

“It’s a win – we knew it was going to be tough coming in,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “Forrest City is always one of the most physical teams we play all year. They’re always real physical and have good linebacker play, and that was no different tonight. The scary thing is that they’re a young team; they’ll have most of them back next year.”

The Mustangs took a page out of Beebe’s playbook in the second half with long, sustained drives that limited the Badgers to just six touches in the entire third quarter, including Forrest City’s drive to start the second half that went 70 yards in 14 plays before running back Bobby Allen coughed up the ball at the Beebe 9-yard line. Sophomore linebacker Augustus Wisdom fell on the ball for the Badgers to end the threat.

“That was big,” Shannon said. “They had momentum, they were driving, they picked up some first downs. We got a pass interference call when we intercepted the football. So, they had a lot of momentum going their way, and that was huge that we got a turnover when we did.”

Beebe went three and out to set the Mustangs up at their own 46, but the defense got the ball again when sophomore lineman Dusty Skinner stepped between Forrest City quarterback Ethan Adams and Allen on the handoff exchange and stole the ball from Adams’ hands with 1:52 left in the third quarter.

That led to Beebe’s only promising drive of the second half, but that drive ended when senior halfback Jeremy Van Winkle fumbled the pitch from quarterback Dustin Stallnacker for a three-yard loss on fourth and 3 from the Forrest City 18-yard line with 7:05 left to play.

“We were able to establish the dive in the first half,” Shannon said. “Second half, we didn’t have the ball very much. Their offense did a great job. They did a good job of holding on to the football and eating up the clock – kind of like what we like to do. Our defense finally rose up and stopped them when we needed to stop them.”

It was the first game back for junior Michael Kirby after sitting out the last two weeks with a shoulder injury, and the 5-4, 149-pound halfback delivered right away when he broke free for a 58-yard touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage for Beebe to give the Badgers an early 6-0 lead with 10:29 left in the first quarter. Kirby’s services were needed more than ever with senior halfback and team leader Jay Holdway out for the game due to a team violation. Kirby finished with eight carries for 95 yards.

“Kirby had a big ballgame,” Shannon said. “He’s been solid for two years now, and it was good to have him back in the lineup.”

Stallnacker added to Beebe’s lead with 11:21 left in the half when he faked to Eric Thorn and kept it for a five-yard touchdown run. Stallnacker also tried to run in the conversion play but was stopped short to leave the score at 12-0.

The Mustangs caught one of their few breaks on the ensuing kickoff when Matt Pursell attempted an onside kick, only to have Forrest City lineman Tevin Beanum field the ball at midfield and run it back untouched to make it 12-6. They tied it with 5:57 left in the first half on a 25-yard touchdown pass play from Adams to Scott Gracey, but Beebe got the last word in the half with a 33-yard scoring run up the middle by Van Winkle with less than a minute to play.

Van Winkle had 12 carries for 72 yards while sophomore fullback Thorn served as workhorse for the Badgers with 18 carries for 59 yards. Beebe finished with 322 total yards, 232 of which came in the first half.

For Forrest City, Adams was 12 for 19 passing for 107 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Allen carried nine times for 87 yards, as the Mustangs had 205 total yards.

Beebe will travel to Wynne next week while Forrest City will host Batesville.