Tuesday, October 02, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Coach wants a better run game Friday

Leader sports editor

North Little Rock is still finding room for improvement as it heads to Jonesboro this Friday to take on the undefeated Golden Hurricanes. The glaring deficiency in last week’s otherwise dominant performance against West Memphis was the running game. The Wildcats managed just 68 yards on the ground, and standout Altee Tenpenny gained just 39 yards on 16 carries. Charging Wildcats’ coach Brad Bolding gave West Memphis some of the credit for that, but felt like his team could have had much more success if some things were done differently.

“West Memphis’ defensive front is pretty good,” Bolding said. “Longview’s was really good but they’re right up there with Longview. They got into some sets defensively that created some problems for us. But to get to the point, we were awful in the running game. At the end of the day we didn’t get the job done and that’s my fault.”

Bolding said West Memphis did what he was expecting, but it came down to the Wildcats executing what they game-planned.

“I said early in the week that if I’m a defensive guy, this is what I’m going to do to us,” Bolding said. “I don’t think we worked it enough during the week. We talked about and schemed for it, but at the end of the day, there’s only one finger to point and it’s at me.”

Jonesboro doesn’t have quite the same kind of athletes on the defensive line that West Memphis has, but the Hurricanes are dangerous in other areas. D.J. Anderson brings his 4.4 speed from wide receiver to quarterback, and has been a very effective dual threat. Running back Martin Stafford is also a problem for opposing defenses. He’s already approaching 1,000 yards this rushing this season.

“They have an outstanding team,” Bolding said. “They’ve done a wonderful job of executing their game plan. Got to give a lot of credit to coach Coleman. They have playmakers all over the field on offense and we have a lot of respect for them.”

A common thread through each week of game preparation has been more of a focus on internal matters than on opponents’ schemes. That doesn’t change this week.

“We’ll go into this game like we have all the others,” Bolding said. “We’re looking to play a flawless game. That’s our goal each week. We don’t want to have any blown assignments like we had last week. We want to play fast and we want to be a physical team.”

The Wildcat defense continues to look sharp. West Memphis mounted almost no offense and never seriously threatened to score in last week’s game.

Jonesboro is better offensively than West Memphis, and also owns a win over the Blue Devils, beating them 30-21 a week before they came to North Little Rock.

The Wildcats also lost starting defensive tackle Kenny Howard, who left last week’s game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Still, Bolding’s confidence in his defense continues to grow.

“Javian Williams (nose guard) played a great game,” Bolding said. “I thought both our defensive ends played great. Deonte Pearson had a great game. Alex Gosser was back there causing trouble on just about every play. We named our whole defense as players of the game.”

One major bright spot that came out of North Little Rock’s running problems was the emergence of a steady passing attack. The co-starters at quarterback, junior Payton Holmes and sophomore Heath Land each had good performances. The team combined to complete 13 of 19 passes for 217 yards. Wide receiver Aaron Adams had his best game of the season, and tight end Cameron Williams, who has been recovering from a preseason injury, had a breakout game with five catches for 82 yards.

“You’re seeing what he’s capable of now,” Bolding said of Williams. “We’ve been waiting for him to get completely healthy. He’s been spot playing here and there, but he’s 100 percent now and he’s a dangerous weapon for us.”