Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SPORTS >> Bison hope to stop Gurdon

Leader sportswriter

What started two weeks ago as a field of 44 has been condensed to just eight teams as the quarterfinal round of the 2A state playoffs are set for Friday, and things do not appear to get any easier for local No. 1 seed Carlisle as the Bison prepare to face Gurdon, the top seed in the 2A-7 Conference.

The Bison (11-0) survived a big first-half scare against a determined Danville team last week. The Little Johns surprised Carlisle with blazing speed, two early touchdowns and a field goal to go up 16-0 before the Bison, who did not play in week 11 after receiving a first-round playoff bye, were able to shake off the rust and finally claim a 22-16 victory.

The Go Devils (10-2) have been dominant since the start of postseason play with a 37-6 victory over Cross County in the first round and a 35-7 win against Spring Hill in the second round last week.

“Number one, they’re an undefeated football team,” Gurdon coach John Pace said of Carlisle. “Number two, they’re a physical bunch. That’s what we see a lot of on film. They have a good average on offense and defense, and they have good running backs.

“Then, to complicate things further, they can change quarterbacks and spread it and throw on you, so they give you multiple things to be prepared for.”

Bo Weddle led the rushing attack for the Bison last week against Danville with 161 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in the final two minutes. Braxton Petrus rushed for 70 yards and Ty Vaughn carried eight times for 60 yards in what has been a balanced rushing attack all season for Carlisle.

The Go Devils are primarily a spread/wishbone team that formerly used the double-wing formation, which happens to be Carlisle’s main offensive scheme.

“We haven’t played against it any this year, but we use to run it,” Pace said. “So we’re not totally blind to it. We do have a basis of approach defensively.”

The Go Devils earned their conference title on the field, but almost lost it due to a violation by the 2A-7 co-champion. Mineral Springs used an ineligible player in its win over Mt. Ida in week five. Mt. Ida beat Gurdon in week 10. The week before the playoffs, the Arkansas Activities Association ruled that Mineral Springs did not have to forfeit its game to Mt. Ida. If it did have to forfeit, it would have been a three-way tie, and Mt. Ida would have been the No. 1 seed.

Gurdon has a mixed bag of experience in its offensive backfield, led by sophomore quarterback Austin Kirkpatrick, who has 900 rushing yards and more than 900 yards passing. Senior running back A.J. Brown has enhanced the rushing attack for the Go Devils with close to 700 yards, while another senior running back, Kedreas Norvell, is flirting with the 1,000 rushing-yards mark.

“They’re a good ball club,” Carlisle coach Scott Waymire said. “And they’ve won some big ballgames. Offensively, they run a lot of power sets. Their quarterback – he’s a sophomore – is a tough kid. He’s a winner. He gets the job done for them. They play very hard on defense, and they’ll get after you.”

Gurdon also has a rare luxury among 2A teams of having few players work on both sides of the ball. Waymire, who does have to use several of his players both ways, said heart can be the best determining factor late.

“We’re not real loaded,” Waymire said. “We ask a lot of guys to go both ways. We’ve been pleased with the conditioning of our guys to be able to do that. We’ve had some young guys who have been able to step in and give breaks. But when it comes down to the third and fourth quarters, it has a lot to do with character, and we have a lot of kids with character.”