Saturday, September 29, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats waste Blue Devils

Leader sports editor

On a night when the running game was bottled up, the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats proved they could win through the air. Quarterbacks Peyton Holmes and Heath Land combined to throw for 217 yards as the hosting Wildcats blew out the Blue Devils 42-0 Friday at Charging Wildcat Stadium.

West Memphis gave up just 9 yards on nine carries to Alabama commitment Altee Tenpenny in the first half, but the Wildcats threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns and held a 21-0 halftime lead.

It was North Little Rock’s defense that dominated the second half, scoring one touchdown and intercepting a pass to set up another short scoring drive.

“We didn’t put together our running game very well at all and that was a little disappointing,” North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said. “But our run defense was so good it took a lot of pressure off our offense. I was really proud of the way the defense played tonight – especially up front.”

Peyton Holmes completed his first six pass attempts including three on North Little Rock’s opening drive that led to the first touchdown of the game. All three were crucial completions. The second completion came on third and 11 from the 32-yard line. An inside screen pass went to Deion Tidwell for 18 yards and a first down at the 14. After a 6 yard lost by Tenpenny on two carries, Holmes found tight end Cameron Williams for 14 yards to set up fourth and 2 at the 6-yard line. Tenpenny got the call again and took the handoff left for the touchdown.

North Little Rock got the ball back after holding West Memphis to just 2 yards on fourth and three at the Wildcat 35. Linebacker Alex Gosser got a sack and tackle-for-loss on the series.

On third and 9, Heath Land delivered a deep strike to senior receiver Aaron Adams, but Adams dropped a sure touchdown and North Little Rock was forced to punt.

Gosser put a stop to West Memphis’ next drive as well, disrupting a handoff and covering the fumble at the Blue Devil 41-yard line.

North Little Rock wasted no time capitalizing on the momentum, again going deep to Adams, who made the catch in full stride from Holmes for 41 yards and the score.

Adams was glad to hear his number called so soon after dropping a certain touchdown.

“One of our guys was out and I said I wanted to score a touchdown for him,” Adams said. “When I dropped that one I was very disappointed because we’re a running team and I thought that was probably my last chance. When they called that play again I just said to myself I have to make this catch. I’m glad I got another opportunity.”

Bolding said the play wasn’t called for Adams’ sake.

“When you make a big defensive play like that you want to capitalize on that momentum and go for the jugular,:” Bolding said.

West Memphis went backwards again on its next drive, but NLR failed to produce on the ensuing possession.

West Memphis lost a yard on its next possession and Kavin Alexander blocked a West Memphis punt to give the Wildcat offense the ball at the Blue Devil 21. Land hit Williams for 18 yards and took it in himself on a quarterback sneak. Sandy Burks’ third extra point made it 21-0 with 3:20 left in the half.

The Wildcats decided to try to put the game away and perfectly executed an onside kick to take possession at the West Memphis 49. After Holmes hit Adams for 27 yards, the Wildcats went with Rodney Bryson at quarterback to run the spread option. The offense didn’t work well. On fourth and 2, Land went back under center and hit Adams for 12 yards, but was picked off at the 8-yard line to end the half.

West Memphis then executed an onside kick to start the second half, but that possession turned into disaster for the Blue Devils.

Running back Kendell Allen lost a yard on first down and West Memphis tried a trick play on second and 11 from their own 48. A double pass went awry when sophomore backup quarterback Gray Fenter dropped the initial backwards pass. He picked it up, but was under heavy pressure from nose guard Javian Williams. Williams caught Fenter 12 yards deep in the backfield and forced a fumble that went another several yards backwards. Defensive end Deonte Pearson then scooped it up and ran 20 yards for the score to make it 28-0 with 11:02 left in the third quarter.

That was the only touchdown in the third quarter, but North Little Rock invoked the mercy rule early in the fourth.

Pearson picked off a Kody Frasure pass on the last play of the third quarter and returned it to the West Memphis 22-yard line. Running back Juan Day got all three carries on the drive. He lost 2 yards on first down, but gained 10 on second down to set up third and 2. He was hit in the backfield on the next play, but bounced off that tackler, ran into another and dragged several West Memphis defenders into the end zone. Burks’ extra point made it 35-0 with 10:22 left in the game.

North Little Rock scored again with 2:49 remaining on another short drive. Land hit Rodney Bryson on a wide receiver screen for 9 yards and the score.

Defensively, senior nose guard Javian Willians had one of his best games. He recorded eight tackles, including three for losses and two sacks. Lindsey had a second and a tackle for loss and Gosser had two sacks and three tackles for loss.

Holmes finished seven of 11 passing for 128 yards and one touchdown. Land was six of eight for 89 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Adams had five catches for 91 yards while Williams had five catches for 82 yards.

North Little Rock had just 68 yards rushing on 30 attempts. Tenpenny finished with 39 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. Day had five carries for 26 yards and a score.

North Little Rock had 285 total yards to just 168 for West Memphis.

The Wildcats will travel to Jonesboro (4-0) next week while West Memphis will take on Little Rock Central (1-4). The Hurricane beat Central 35-24 on Friday.