Tuesday, October 04, 2011

SPORTS>>Devils face similar opponent in Warriors

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville didn’t get a win, but may have gained some respect with last week’s performance at Jonesboro. This week the Red Devils face 2-3 Little Rock Hall on homecoming night.

Last Friday, the Red Devils held the Hurricane offense to just seven points until the final minute of the third quarter. That’s the same offense that has averaged 40 points per game in a season that has included opponents like Fayetteville and Conway.

The fourth quarter turned into a wild affair, with Jacksonville still leading 22-21 with about five minutes left. In that time, Jacksonville suffered some key injuries, and Jonesboro’s superior depth took its toll.

Still, Jacksonville showed it can compete, and can beat, the elite teams in 6A.

This week, it faces a perennial also-ran in Little Rock Hall, but there are several reasons why the Red Devils can’t take the Warriors lightly, despite the two weeks of solid football it has turned in since beginning conference play.

First on that list is how Jacksonville played before conference began. As much as the Red Devils have proven with its last two outings, it is still the same team that laid eggs in weeks one and two, and will have to be on guard for those kinds of letdowns the rest of the year.

Secondly, Hall is much better this year than in recent years. With the installation of former Arkansas Razorback fullback Rod Stinson as head coach, numbers have nearly tripled in the Hall program, and the two early wins are sure signs of a program on the rise.

Comparing common opponents still makes Jacksonville look like a heavy favorite. Hall lost 21-0 to Mountain Home last week, the same Mountain Home that Jacksonville beat 27-0 the week before. But scores don’t tell the whole story.

“They moved the ball really well up and down the field on Mountain Home,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell, who has seen film of the Warrior-Bomber game. “They just made some mistakes in the red zone. They have some talent, and they’re a better football team.”

Hall has two wins already this season, beating Mills and Arkadelphia. Its losses have come to Mountain Home, and two juggernauts in West Memphis and Lake Hamilton.

“They’ve played a tough schedule, but I’m telling you they do everything better,” Russell said. “They’re going to be very similar to us in that they have some size, not a lot of depth, and some talented kids in the skill positions. We’re going to have to be ready to play because I think this game is going to come down to who does the best job technique-wise and doesn’t turn the ball over.”

Jacksonville used Monday as a chance to heal and rest after a brutally physical game at Jonesboro. Injuries and tired legs began to take their toll in the fourth quarter of that game.

“We’ve had a really tough three weeks,” Russell said. “The kids focused and worked very hard, and last week was a very tough football game. We didn’t take the day off. We watched about twice the film as we usually watch, and we had a very productive session. There were a lot of technique errors we made in that fourth quarter that we need to correct. We were able to get those across to them and we’ll hit the field and start correcting them.”

Defensively Russell says the approach will be similar this week as the last two. Hall, like Mountain Home and Jonesboro, runs the spread with a talented and elusive quarterback at the helm in Quincy Cooper.

“We just have to stay in our coverage, stay in our pass rush,” Russell said. “We can spy (Cooper) with a linebacker who can leave his coverage. We should’ve have any problem being there. We just have to make the play once we’re there.”