Saturday, October 13, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> North Little Rock cruises against Searcy

Leader sportswriter

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats showed why they’re the team to beat in the 7A/6A East after handing Searcy its first loss in conference play with a dominant 42-13 win Friday at Lion Stadium.

Searcy and North Little Rock entered the game as the only unbeaten teams left in the conference with a perfect 3-0 record, but the Charging Wildcats’ win puts them in the driver’s seat for a top seed once the playoff picture unfolds.

North Little Rock started the game with an onside kick attempt, but failed to cover it, and as a result the Lions started at the 50 yard line. Searcy’s offense had little trouble moving the ball early, but once the Lions got into the red zone, the North Little Rock defense held them to a 26-yard field goal.

Unfortunately for Searcy (4-3, 3-1), the lead didn’t last long. North Little Rock sophomore returner Fabian Lewis received the kickoff at the Wildcats’ 5-yard line, and ran in between the hash marks where he handed the ball to Alabama commit Altee Tenpenny. Tenpenny found some blockers and raced down the Wildcats’ sideline 90 yards for the first touchdown of the game. Sandy Burks’ extra point was good to give North Little Rock a 7-3 lead.

Searcy’s offense was able to follow with a promising 12-play drive, but once again had to settle for a field goal, this one from 39 yards. After that, the Lions’ offense struggled to move the ball offensively for the remainder of the game. North Little Rock’s offense on the other hand didn’t have any trouble.

On the Wildcats’ second possession, Tenpenny capped off a six-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 6:45 to go in the opening half. The extra point gave North Little Rock a 14-6 lead.

“Early they were able to move the ball on us,” said North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding about Searcy. “We knew they were going to come out with a lot of emotion, and be excited, but our kids just stayed with the game plan. We made some tweaks on defense, and we just stuck to what we always do.

“It’s not about the opponent we’re playing. It’s about how we execute what our game plan is, and that’s what we make a big deal out of.”

North Little Rock was able to score again with 29 seconds to go in the half on another touchdown run from Tenpenny, this one from five yards out to make the score 21-6. Searcy’s offense tried to make something happen before halftime, but Lions’ quarterback Antwan Arnold was mauled by a group of Wildcat defenders as the horn sounded.

Arnold was sacked by the Wildcat defense three times in the opening half, and it didn’t get any better for him in the final two quarters as he was taken down four more times. Meanwhile, the North Little Rock offense kept the momentum going.

The Wildcats’ balanced attack was very effective against the Searcy defense, and North Little Rock scored on its next three drives to put the sportsmanship rule into play.

Tenpenny punched in his third rushing score of the game on a two-yard run with 8:06 to go in the third quarter, but junior playmaker Juan Day was knocked out of the game on the previous play after a fierce collision at the two-yard line.

“He got a little ding in the head,” Bolding said about Day’s status. “He maybe has a slight concussion, but you know it’s one of those things that happens in football and he’ll be back. We’re going to be anxious to get him back because he’s another one I think is an SEC running back.”

Junior fullback Deion Tidwell scored the next touchdown for NLR on a 20-yard run with 4:39 to go in the third. Tenpenny scored his fourth rushing touchdown (fifth overall) on his most impressive carry of the game, which was a 54-yard score where he had to weave and plow through several defenders before finally breaking loose down the sideline.

Searcy’s offense eventually found the end zone with 3:42 to play on a one-yard quarterback keeper from Arnold. The extra point was good to set the score at 42-13.

To go with his four rushing touchdowns, Tenpenny led all ball carriers with 102 yards on 16 carries. Day managed to total 59 yards on the ground on six carries before leaving the game.

Payton Holmes was 8-11 passing for 73 yards, while co-starter Heath Land was 4-6 for 74 yards. Senior receiver Aaron Adams, younger brother of former Arkansas Razorback, Joe Adams, led all receivers with four catches for 65 yards.

North Little Rock (6-1, 4-0) will look to stay unbeaten in conference play next week against Marion for the Wildcats’ homecoming.