Saturday, September 01, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons stop War Eagles at goal line

Leader sports editor

They didn’t make it easy. They didn’t make it pretty, but they made it happen. The North Pulaski Falcons beat J.A. Fair 13-12 Friday night in Little Rock to open the 2012 football season. The win gives second-year coach Teodis Ingram his first victory at North Pulaski and gives the Falcons their first win since 2010.

It came down to a defensive stand on a two-point conversion with 52 seconds remaining. Fair lined up in the spread and handed off to Isaac Nelson. Nelson cut inside, but was tripped up by sophomore defensive tackle David Jackson at the 1-yard line to preserve the victory.

As North Pulaski took a knee to run out the clock, defensive back Daniel Drone said to Ingram, “We did it for you coach.” Drone explained what he meant.

“Coach Ingram has just meant so much to this team,” Drone said. “He came here last year and he’s really worked hard to get people out on the team, get them to work hard. I’m really happy for him that we were able to get this win for him.”

The War Eagles scored on a busted play to pull within a point. Fair quarterback Damariaus Robinson was flushed out of the pocket and began to scramble. The Falcons’ defensive backfield, which was solid all night, left coverage too soon to rush the quarterback before he crossed the line of scrimmage. Robinson spotted Rodney Thomas all alone at the 10-yard line. Thomas hauled in the 40-yard pass and walked into the end zone. That set up North Pulaski’s two-point conversion stand.

“I just wanted those kids to know what this feels like,” Ingram said. “We did a lot of things wrong and we’ve got a lot of work to do, but they made it happen. Listen, those kids could have lost hope right there but they didn’t. They made a play and they earned that victory.”

North Pulaski dominated the game statistically for most of the game. Penalties were a problem for both teams, but turnovers killed several Falcon drives. North Pulaski lost five fumbles, all of them inside the War Eagle 15-yard line, including two inside the Fair 5-yard line.

“We moved the ball pretty well,” Ingram said. “We missed some things at times, but we moved the ball. We have to take care of it better than that and we have to cut out the penalties. We’re going to play a lot better football teams than this, and we’re not going to beat good football teams turning it over five times.”

Ingram blamed some of the mistakes on not having a preseason scrimmage opponent. The Falcons were scheduled to play in a jamboree at Joe T. Robinson, but their opponent cancelled.

“I think that has a lot to do with it,” Ingram said. “It was first-game jitters and it was worse than usual because this was the first time my guys had been on the field against someone else.”

The Falcons held JA Fair to negative 4 yards in the first half. They got the ball to the Eagle 13-yard line on their first possession, but fumbled it away.

After a defensive stop, North Pulaski got the ball back at the Fair 42 and drove to the 11-yard line before fumbling it away again.

Fair got its one and only first down of the first half on a pass interference call, but the Falcons stopped the Eagles and took over on downs on their own 45.

This time they drove to the 23-yard line before a bad call started a backwards momentum that didn’t stop until Fair had scored to take the lead.

A 37-yard pass play from Doug Gates to Nick Weaver put North Pulaski on the 23-yard line. From there Damon Thomas was stopped for a 2-yard loss. The Falcons moved early twice before the next snap, resulting in second and 22 from the 35-yard line. Fred Thomas was stopped for a 1-yard gain on a screen pass to make it third down and 21. Gates re-entered at quarterback for Steven Farrior, and hit Yakeem Young at the 3-yard line, but the line judge called offensive pass interference. Another flag came out and the Falcons were called for unsportsmanlike conduct, which is 15 yards and a loss of down. It all left NP punting from its own 49-yard line, but the backwards momentum wasn’t finished.

The punt snap was high. Punter Dylan Swaggerty chased the ball down and managed to kick it from his 22-yard line, but it was blocked by Robinson. Ladarious Slater picked it up at the 13-yard line and carried it into the end zone. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful and Fair led 6-0 with 8:06 left in the first half.

The Falcons wasted little time answering. Damon Thomas took the first handoff of the ensuing drive 25 yards to the Fair 33. Another motion penalty pushed it back 5 yards and two more plays gained just 1 yard. On third and 14, Gates hit Fred Thomas for a 12-yard gain. On fourth down, Fred Thomas took it 26 yards up the middle for the score.

North Pulaski’s first two drives of the second half ended on downs.

Fair finally put together a good drive late in the third quarter, moving from their own 34 to the North Pulaski 13 before the Falcons’ defense held on fourth and 6.

North Pulaski then drove from their own 13 all the way to the War Eagle 1-yard line before another fumble thwarted the drive.

The Falcon defense again held Fair without a first down, and the offense took over at the Eagle 31 after the punt. It took seven plays with Farrior getting the last 6 yards on a quarterback keeper with 2:55 left in the game.

The extra point snap was low, leaving the score 13-6.

Fair picked up 126 yards in the second half to finish with 122 in the game. North Pulaski finished with 263 total yards. The net yards for both teams is much less. Fair was flagged eight times for 53 yards. North Pulaski was called for 11 penalties totaling 70 yards.

Damon Thomas led all players with 22 carries for 116 yards. The junior also had one reception for 11 yards on third and 8 that set up NP’s final touchdown.

Fred Thomas carried six times for 67 yards for a 10.7 yards-per-carry average, but fumbled twice. He also made four catches for 31 yards.

North Pulaski will play its home opener on Friday against Maumelle. Fair will travel to Joe T. Robinson.