Saturday, October 27, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits stun top-ranked Stuttgart

Leader sportswriter

It was a season-changing victory for Lonoke on Friday as the Jackrabbits pulled off a huge upset over Stuttgart 28-7 at Ned Moseley Stadium, sending the 4A-2 conference playoff picture into a complete tailspin.

The Jackrabbits (5-4, 3-3) allowed the Ricebirds (8-1, 5-1) to score on their first possession, but controlled the clock and the momentum from that point on, scoring on their following possession with a three-yard touchdown run by senior D.J. Burton.

Lonoke took a 12-7 halftime lead and scored again on the opening drive of the third quarter. They set the final margin early in the final period before going on a 10-minute drive to end the game.

Stuttgart came into the game riding high after a 24-14 defeat of Dollarway last week in a game projected at the time to be for the top spot in the 4A-2 conference. Lonoke was fighting to remain in the playoff hunt, and Friday’s victory now guarantees the Jackrabbits at least a No. 5 seed.

“The kids knew, and the coaches knew, we let some (games) slip away,” Jackrabbits coach Doug Bost said. “We let Newport slip away, we had a chance against Star City and also Heber Springs. We’ve been right there all year. The kids kept on fighting, and we had a good week of practice. We deserve to win a big one after how close we’ve been all year.”

Junior Blake Mack gave Lonoke the lead midway through the second quarter when he scored on a 10-yard touchdown run to make it 12-7 at the half. The Jackrabbits came out of the half and added to their lead with a 60-yard drive that was setup with a solid kickoff return by senior Eric Williams to the Lonoke 40-yard line.

Burton completed the scoring drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, and also converted the two-point try with a pass to receiver/quarterback Nick Watson to increase the Jackrabbits’ lead to 20-7.

Lonoke struck again through the air on its final scoring drive as Burton found Mack for a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mack at the start of the fourth quarter. The Jackrabbits went for another two-point conversion, and confused the Ricebirds defense with a gadget play that started with a handoff to Williams, who then got the ball to Mack, who threw to Burton for the score.

Lonoke’s defense forced the Ricebirds to stall their next drive quickly, and took over at its own 20-yard line with 10:16 remaining. The Jackrabbits drove all the way down to the Stuttgart 5-yard line before giving up the ball on an interception with less than a minute to go.

“I would have loved to seen the time of possession, because I’m guessing we had the ball close to 35 minutes,” Bost said. “We told them we can’t play 35 of 48 minutes with our defense on the field. We just told them to slow it down.”

Stuttgart senior quarterback Dontrell Brown has had his way against opposing defenses all season, but the Jackrabbits defense kept him in check on Friday. Brown and the Ricebirds’ offense tried to go through the air more once they fell behind, and Lonoke’s line and secondary responded with one of their best performances of the year.

“They got out of their element and started trying to air it out,” Bost said. “I’m just so proud of all our guys. They’ve got some big linemen – some real animals out there, but our guys got the best of them tonight. The kids just played so hard.”

The Jackrabbits will try to improve their seeding for the upcoming 4A state playoffs when they host Clinton to end the regular season this Friday.