Saturday, September 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils escape Maumelle

Leader sportswriter

The wet conditions meant sloppy football at times in Jacksonville’s week three non-conference matchup against Class 4A Maumelle, but the Red Devils found a way to get it done as they beat the Hornets 12-7 Friday night in Maumelle.

Jacksonville (1-2) earned the win by putting together a solid team effort, but the two biggest playmakers on the field were to no surprise the biggest contributors. Senior quarterback Aaron Smith and receiver/defensive back Kevin Richardson made play-after-play throughout the game that helped the Red Devils clinch the win.

“They were outstanding tonight,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell about Smith and Richardson’s play. “That’s the way we expect them to play. That’s the ability level they have and the integrity they have as kids. They should shine every Friday night.

“We challenged them this week. We said we want to see your names in the 5A (category) of the best performances in the state, because that’s the caliber of kids that you are. And we need you to start performing at that level,’ and tonight they did.”

Smith completed 50 percent of his passes for 162 yards and one touchdown with one interception. He also finished the game with 30 carries for 180 yards rushing and one touchdown. Smith’s first touchdown on the ground was also the first score of the game.

With 7:04 to play in the half, Smith capped off a nine-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper. The extra point attempt was no good, to leave the score 6-0 Jacksonville.

The Hornets (0-2) were able to move the ball on the ensuing drive after picking up three first downs, but on fourth and long at the Jacksonville 40, Maumelle attempted a fake punt that backfired for a one-yard loss.

Jacksonville turned the ball over on downs its next possession, and after a Maumelle three-and-out, Jacksonville coasted to halftime with a 6-0 lead.

Maumelle showed promise in the second half after sophomore corner Braylon Waits intercepted Smith’s pass at the Hornets’ 40-yard line. Waits returned the pick all the way to the Jacksonville 36. It took the Maumelle offense just four plays to find the end zone as senior quarterback Terry Rhoades hooked up with receiver Carson Pate for a 12-yard score.

Hunter Cockrell’s extra point was good and the Hornets led 7-6 with 4:20 to play in the third quarter. However, it took Jacksonville just three plays and precisely one minute of game play to score again.

On third-and-10, Smith found Richardson wide open down the visiting sideline and Richardson dashed 66 yards for the touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was no good as Jacksonville held a 12-7 lead.

Maumelle’s offense came close to scoring on two separate drives late in the fourth quarter, but both possessions ended with an interception from Richardson at the Jacksonville six-yard line.

Richardson’s two late picks and Smith’s ability to move the chains with his feet on the Red Devils’ final drive allowed Jacksonville to run out the clock and get the win.

“They played hard,” Russell said of his team. “We still have some things to clean up, but they played hard. They played for 48 minutes tonight.

“I’m not talking about a complete game as far as minutes. I’m talking about a complete game as far as execution, and tonight I think there were some mistakes. But consistently we competed for 48 minutes tonight, and that’s what we were shooting for. That was our goal.”

The majority of Smith’s yards through the air went to Richardson, who had 135 yards receiving to go with his touchdown. Jacksonville totaled 393 yards of offense compared to Maumelle’s 185.

The Red Devils will begin their 5A Central Conference schedule next week against Helena-West Helena Central at home.