Saturday, September 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Zebras no match against Wildcats

Leader sports editor

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats made the most of their home opener and made a statement to the state by hammering previously undefeated Pine Bluff 47-10 Friday at Charging Wildcat Stadium in what had been billed as the Bolding Bowl.

North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding finally got a win over older brother Bobby after two previous meetings. The two downplayed the rivalry all week, but Brad Bolding let it be known there was some spirited competition.

“We’ve been blowing that off,” the younger Bolding said. “Obviously he’s put a thumping on me a couple times and it feels good to do that to him. He’s got a very good football team.”

Bobby Bolding said he wanted his Zebras to control the football and keep North Little Rock’s offensive athletes off the field. His team executed that strategy perfectly in the first quarter and still found itself down 20-3 at the end of it.

Special teams was a point of focus all week for the Wildcats after giving up most of the 30 points it allowed in last week’s loss to Longview, Tex. in the kicking game.

North Little Rock’s work on the kicking game became apparent on its first kickoff return. Sophomore Fabian Lewis took the kick at the 6-yard line on the left side, ran to his right, faked a reverse to Rodney Bryson and raced 94 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

“That was our main focus after last week when we should have won the game,” Bolding said. “We really concentrated on special teams, playing full speed, changed some personnel. That was a sophomore that returned that and I’m real proud of him. We thought we could set it up with Altee and draw attention to him. Of course our wall did a great job of setting up. We just celebrated behind him and didn’t do anything stupid.”

The special teams work wasn’t evident early on, as Pine Bluff ran the opening kickoff to the Wildcat 47.

From there the Zebras got a 29-yard run by tailback Walter Ashley, but had to settle for a35-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 10:13 left in the first quarter.

That was almost all of Pine Bluff’s highlights as North Little Rock began the onslaught with Lewis’ touchdown.

Pine Bluff then had its best drive of the game but it came up fruitless. The Zebras went 59 yards in 15 plays, converting four third downs, all of which were more than 10 yards. The Wildcats finally stopped them at the 11-yard line, where Pine Bluff missed a 28-yard field goal.

On North Little Rock’s first play, Altee Tenpenny took the sweep left and went 80 yards for the score. Sandy Burk’s extra point made it 14-3 with 2:50 left in the first quarter.

Pine Bluff let the ensuing kickoff drop and it bounced over Ashley’s head. He collided with a teammate trying to retrieve the ball and Bryson covered it at the Zebra 15-yard line.

On the next play, Tenpenny took another sweep left and ran untouched for the score. The extra point was no good, leaving it 20-3 with 2:36 left in the opening quarter.

Pine Bluff had the ball for 13:47 of the 15-minute first quarter.

Things got worse for Pine Bluff in the second quarter. Pine Bluff was held to three and out on its first possession of the second and punted the ball back to North Little Rock.

The Wildcats started on their own 34 and went on their only long drive of the game. It took the hosts 13 plays to go the 66 yards for the score. Tenpenny got the last two carries, going eight yards apiece and scoring his third touchdown with 5:21 left in the first half.

On the second play of Pine Bluff’s next drive, Martinez Butler picked off a Clements pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back for an illegal block. The Wildcats started at the Pine Bluff 36 and needed just four plays to score. Tenpenny got the call again at the 17-yard line. He danced up the middle, cut to his left, dodged one tackler and scampered in for his fourth touchdown of the game.

North Little Rock went for two and converted a throwback pass to Cameron Williams to go into halftime up 35-3.

The second half belonged to the other talented running back, Juan Day. The 6-foot, 2-inch junior scored both of North Little Rock’s touchdowns in the second half. The Wildcats took the opening kickoff at their own 35 and drove to the Pine Bluff 20-yard line in just five plays. The key play was a 21-yard pass and catch from sophomore quarterback Heath Land to senior wideout Evan Peters on third and 6.

Junior fullback Deion Tidwell rumbled 9 yards on first down setting up Day’s 20-yard scoring run up the middle.

The extra point was blocked, leaving it 41-3 with 9:43 left in the third quarter and the sportsmanship clock rule in effect.

Pine Bluff fumbled the ball on its first play of the ensuing possession. Nose guard Javian Williams drilled Pine Bluff fullback Kelvin Sergeant to jar the ball loose. Sophomore Roderick Jefferson covered it at the Pine Bluff 38-yard line.

The Wildcats kept it on the ground and got it to the Pine Bluff 8-yard line with first and goal, but went backwards from there. Tenpenny was dropped for an 8-yard loss with a holding penalty tacked onto the lost yardage. It set up first and goal from the 26. After two more plays, Day plowed up the middle from 15 yards out for the Wildcats’ final touchdown of the game.

Pine Bluff finally got into the end zone with a 3-yard run by junior Trever Hunt with two minutes left in the game.

Tenpenny finished with 17 carries for 147 yards and four touchdowns. Day finished with six carries for 51 yards and two scores.

The Charging Wildcats had 315 total yards to 211 for Pine Bluff.

Ashley, Pine Bluff’s college prospect running back, ran for 29 yards on his first carry, but finished with six carries for 32 yards.

North Little Rock, 2-1, begins 7A/6A East conference play on the road at Cabot. The Zebras, 2-1, will host Texarkana in their opening game in the 7A/6A South.