Friday, August 24, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Harding identifies Badgers’ mistakes

Leader sports editor

There were pleasant surprises and a few unpleasant surprises during Beebe’s scrimmage game against Harding Academy at Bro Erwin Stadium on Tuesday, but ultimately, head coach John Shannon ruled the outing a disappointment as the Badgers struggled with their pass defense against the Wildcats’ prolific spread attack.

Beebe gave up a number of big pass plays to Harding Academy senior quarterback Will Francis, while the Badgers offense took a couple of possessions to get going. Junior fullback Eric Thorn picked up steam as the night went on, while second-group senior halfback Pearson Sloan had the most consistent success against Harding Academy’s defense.

“I thought our youth showed a lot,” Shannon said. “I’m a little disappointed; I was expecting a little more, but I always do. We’ll get in here and watch the film and see what we’ve got to get better at. We’ll get back to work on Thursday getting ready for Greenbrier, but we’ve got a long way to go. We’re not near where we need to be right now.”

Thorn had four carries for 16 yards on Beebe’s first 15-play series. The second series featured the second-team offense, with Thorn, sophomore quarterback Aaron Nunez and the first team returning for the third offensive series for the Badgers.

This time, Thorn opened things up after being stopped at the line of scrimmage on his first rush. His second touch resulted in a five-yard gain, followed by a 19-yard rumble and a 28-yard touchdown run for Beebe’s second score of the night.

“I thought he got a little bit better,” Shannon said. “I thought the offensive line was going to be the strength of the team – I was a little disappointed in them. They’re going to have to pick it up a bunch. We just made a ton of mistakes and things we can’t do to be successful. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Sloan needed little time to get his motor going with a 14-yard gain on his first run of Beebe’s second offensive series, followed by a six-yard gain and a 10-yard gain. Sloan then ran for a 20-yard touchdown and carried twice more before the end of the series to pick up 14 extra yards. His totals for the series came out to six carries and 64 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s a senior, and he’s worked his butt off for three years in our program,” Shannon said. “He’s just a hard-nosed kid – competitor. I wish he had a little more speed, but he’s going to give it everything he’s got. He’s going to be solid for us.”

Defensively, the Badgers stopped Harding Academy at times and gave way to some big plays in other spots. Senior defensive back Michael Kirby made one of the biggest plays defensively with an interception and 30-yard touchdown return to begin the Wildcats’ final offensive series.

“I thought Kirby made some plays, and I thought Colton Gibbs, the sophomore corner, made some good plays,” Shannon said. “I was pleased with him, but we’ve just got a lot of work to do on both sides of the football.”

With Greenbrier, another big-play passing team, on the horizon for the season opener on Friday, Shannon said there is still work to do in order to be game-ready.

“We scrimmaged last Friday, and I thought offensively, we looked as good as we’ve looked in a long time,” Shannon said. “And then we come out here tonight and didn’t look as good as I thought. Once you break down the film, it’s never as bad as what you think it is, and it’s never as good as what you think it is. So, we’ll get in there in the film room, break it down and see what we need to work on to get better before we play Greenbrier.”