Saturday, November 05, 2011

SPORTS>>Beebe still No. 3 seed after losing East finale

Special to The Leader

Beebe was looking to enter the 2011 playoffs on a winning streak, but regardless of Friday night’s loss to Batesville, the Badgers will enter the playoffs as the number three seed out of the 5A East Conference.

The Badgers fell to the 5A East champion Pioneers 28-14 at “Bro” Erwin Stadium. It’s Batesville’s second straight conference champion ship, and its seventh win in a row. The Pioneers finished the regular season undefeated in conference play.

“I thought our kids played hard, but Batesville’s a good team,” said Beebe Head Coach John Shannon about his team’s effort. “We knew coming in we couldn’t make any mistakes, and we just made too many mistakes tonight.”

The first half was a defensive battle as both sides played well. Batesville got on the board first when Beebe senior quarterback Dustin Stallnacker was intercepted by Daniel Neal, and Neal returned the interception 30 yards for the Pioneer touchdown. Mario Garcia kicked the extra point to give Batesville the early 7-0 lead.

The Pioneers tried to score again before the half with a field goal, but missed from 26-yards out, leaving the score 7-0 going into halftime.

The Badger defense remained strong going into the second half as Batesville’s first play of the half was a turnover. Pioneer quarterback Jacob Hardin was intercepted by senior Matt Pursell after the Batesville offense tried a reverse pass play.

The Badger offense couldn’t respond though, as the offense went three-and-out. Batesville countered as soon its offense took the field when Hardin hit junior wideout Athan Dockery for a 77-yard touchdown pass. It was their first play of the drive. The extra point gave Batesville a 14-0 lead with 9:59 left in the third quarter.

Beebe tried to stay in the game offensively going for it on fourth-and-three from their own 47-yard line, but failed to convert. Batesville responded with a seven play drive ending with Hardin taking the quarterback sneak into the endzone from one yard out, giving the Pioneers a 21-0 lead with 3:29 to go in the third.

The Beebe offense didn’t quit however, as Stallnacker found senior tight end Ethan Boyce wide open in the middle of the field for a 65-yard touchdown pass. Pursell kicked the extra point to make the score 21-7.

Both offenses sputtered the rest of the game. Batesville’s Hardin tried to take another quarterback sneak into the endzone, but fumbled and the Badger defense covered the ball at their own two-yard line.

On the Badger offense’s first play of the series, Stallnacker hit senior running back Jeremy Van Winkle on an out route, but Van Winkle fumbled the ball after being hit and Batesville’s Cody Vaughn returned the fumble seven yards for a touchdown.

“I think we had three turnovers tonight,” Shannon said, “and two of them they took back for touchdowns. We got beat 28-14 and their defense scored two touchdowns. You can’t make mistakes like that against a good football team.”

The Beebe offense found the endzone late when senior running back Jay Holdway, who ended the night with 28 carries for 123 yards, scored from one yard out with 2:38 left in the game to set the final margin.

“When you get in the playoffs and it’s down to 16 teams and no longer 32, it’s the best 16 teams in the state,” Shannon said about the team’s upcoming playoff game next week. “We faced one of the best ones tonight, and feel like we hung with them pretty good. So, I feel like it got us ready to go play better competition in the state.”

Beebe will travel to Watson Chapel next week for the first round of the 2011 playoffs. The Wildcats finished the season 8-2 and closed out their regular season on Thursday with a 51-21 win over Sylvan Hills.