Saturday, October 20, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville scores late, beats LRCA

Leader sports editor

On a night when the offense wasn’t clicking and everything close went the opponent’s way, Jacksonville (6-2, 5-0) gutted out a 13-7 win over Little Rock Christian Academy at Jan Crow Stadium on Friday to move to 5-0 in conference play and stay tied with Pulaski Academy for first place in the 5A Central.

The Red Devil defense held the Warriors out of the end zone for 46 minutes, preserving a 7-0 lead that Jacksonville held since the 10:37 mark of the first quarter.

With the help of several disputable spots, two fourth-down conversions and an offside penalty, the Warriors finally punched the ball in the end zone. The extra point made it 7-7 with 2:18 left in the game.

When Jacksonville’s offense took the field at its own 38-yard line, it had gained just 178 total yards, and just 61 the entire second half. It needed just four plays to go 62 yards for the game-winning score.

Senior Kevin Richardson, who had only two offensive touches the entire game, went 16 yards on second down and 10. Jacksonville quarterback Aaron Smith kept for 8 yards on first down to set up second and 2 from the Warrior 38. Another option read went to Richardson, who started right, cut left and burst up the middle. After shaking one tackler, he outran the LRCA defense to the end zone to give the Red Devils a 13-7 lead with 1:34 left in the game.

Jacksonville coach Rick Russell was emotional talking about Richardson’s play on the final drive.

“The kid is just a coach’s dream,” Russell said. “The heart he played with tonight, it’s just incredible. We have got to get the ball in his hands more than two times in a game. Little Rock Christian had a great game plan to keep him from having a game like he’s been having. On that last drive, the plays were the same. They weren’t doing anything different. It was the same seams. He just made up his mind he wasn’t going to be stopped.”

Smith, who, along with the rest of the offense, had not enjoyed much success throughout the game, also said the last drive was about determination.

“I just knew we had to do something,” Smith said. “It’s homecoming. We got all our alumni here and it’s a big game. We just had to go out and execute and make things happen like we’ve been doing. They were keying on me the whole night and I knew I had to make the right reads that last drive because we had to have this.”

After Jacksonville’s touchdown, Christian took over on its own 32 and quickly picked up 12 yards to the 44. But defensive end Titus O’Neal got his ninth tackle and second sack of the game for an 8-yard loss. Out of timeouts, LRCA had to waste second down by spiking the ball to set up third and 18. Angel hit Thomas for an 11-yard gain. With the clock still moving on fourth and 7, Braylin Terry knocked down an Angel pass at the line of scrimmage with six seconds remaining to seal the victory.

“The defense did a great job tonight keeping them off balance and keeping them out of the end zone,” Russell said. “We did what we needed to do to win. Some weeks like McClellan when we give up 34 and score 57, it’s the offense. Then there’s nights like tonight when our defense steps up when the offense is working so well.”

Little Rock Christian tied the game with a 13-play, 54-yard drive that saw several disputed plays.

The first came on the second play of the drive when Alex Caroom caught a pass in the flat, fell down for what should have been a 6-yard loss, then got up and gained 22 yards before he was ruled down.

A key play in the drive was not disputable. The Warriors converted a fourth down and 15 when quarterback Houston Angel hit tight end Will Duncan for a 17-yard gain to the Jacksonville 19.

Later in the drive, Angel was forced to scramble on third and goal from the 6, was stopped at the 3, but given forward progress to the 1. On fourth and goal from the 1, Angel kept and was stopped right at the goal line. After brief delay, he was ruled in the end zone with 2:18 left to play.

There was very little offense in the first half. The Red Devils hit a 61-yard screen pass for a touchdown on its opening drive, and neither team did much after that.

On the third play of the game, Smith swung the ball to the right side to sophomore Lamont Gause, who broke a pair of tackles to turn third down and 8 into a touchdown.

The Warriors dominated time of possession, but Jacksonville came up with a big sack or a turnover to stop most of their drives.

On offense, Jacksonville hurt itself with penalties and turnovers, even blowing great field position after an interception. Kevin Richardson picked off a Warrior pass at the goal line and returned it 73 yards to the LRCA 27-yard line with six minutes left in the first half. But after a 6-yard scramble by quarterback Aaron Smith, he was picked off by Warrior cornerback Connor Vaughn.

LRCA took over on its own 14, got two first downs via Jacksonville penalties and drove all the way to the Jacksonville 28. The Devil defense then tightened up. Linebackers Justin Abbott and Jacob Price teamed up for a sack. Safety Nykel Worthan then got Jacksonville’s second pick of the game with one minute remaining in the half.

Jacksonville fumbled the ball away twice in the first half and once more in the second. It also had one drive that saw good gains negated by offensive penalties. The Red Devils were called for four penalties that totaled minus 41 yards its third drive of the game.

The Red Devils finished with just 240 total yards.

Gause had four receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. Richardson had four carries for 71 yards and a score and two receptions for 13 yards. He also had the 73-yard interception return and one kickoff return for 28 yards.

The Warriors finished with 265 total yards. Jay Hedges had 21 carries for 90 yards to lead the visitors. Angel completed 11 of 33 pass attempts for 127 yards, but was sacked six times by the Red Devils’ defense. Jacksonville travels to Mills next week. The Comets lost 50-20 to Pulaski Academy.