Saturday, October 13, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Quick blitz lifts Red Devils

Leader sports editor

A one-minute, 17-second stretch of the second quarter, and another one-minute, 17-second stretch of the third quarter made for five Jacksonville touchdowns as the Red Devils battled their way to a 46-14 win over North Pulaski Friday at Falcon Stadium.

The game, which was the first between the two teams since 2007, was closer than the score indicates. Jacksonville scored twice between 10:46 and 9:29 of the second quarter to turn a tie game into a 19-7 lead.

The Devils then scored three touchdowns between 8:21 and 7:04 of the third quarter to turn what had been a tough game into a huge 39-7 advantage.

“We just always seem to have one quarter where big mistakes just kill us,” North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram said. “They’re just killing us. This was a talented 3-0 team coming in here and we competed with them. I mean we competed. We just have those lapses man that just kill us.”

Jacksonville coach Rick Russell agreed that, despite the lop-sided final score, his team was in a tough game on Friday.

“You try to convince these guys that 1-5 or 0-3 doesn’t matter,” Russell said about his opponent’s record. “This is a rivalry. They’ve waited a long time to have us here again and they’re going to be ready to play. And they were. They were more ready to play at the first tic than we were. That was obvious because they stopped us on defense and went right down the field on us on offense. But we regrouped, made some big plays on defense and special teams that got us going and we were able to get a win.”

Three North Pulaski turnovers turned into 20 Jacksonville points early in the second half to blow the game open. Randy Armstrong picked off a deep pass attempt by North Pulaski’s Doug Gates to give the Red Devils the ball at their own 36. Kevin Richardson went 47 yards on first down to the 17. Lamont Gause went 14 on second down and quarterback Aaron Smith got it in from there to make it 25-7 with 8:21 left in the third quarter.

Freshman Dontrell Allen was stripped by Jacksonville’s Nykel Worthen on the ensuing kickoff. Worthen also covered the fumble, giving the Red Devils possession at the Falcon 19-yard line. Three pass plays later, Smith hit Richardson from 14 yards out. John Herrmann’s extra point made it 32-7 with 7:20 left.

On the first play of the next drive, Steven Farrior was picked off by Jacksonville linebacker Jacob Price, who returned it untouched for 35 yards and a touchdown. The extra point made it 39-7 with 7:04 remaining in the third.

“These kids are such good kids,” Ingram said. “I love how hard they work. I love how hard they play. But I have never had a group of kids who make the very same mistakes you go over and over in practice trying to make sure they don’t make. I just don’t understand it.”

Two big mistakes in the first half were the difference between a tied game at halftime and a 19-7 Jacksonville lead.

The Falcon defense held Jacksonville on its first two drives, and scored on its first drive to take a 7-0 lead.

North Pulaski’s opening possession went 57 yards in just four plays. Damon Thomas went 16 yards on first down. Farrior went 9 yards on the next play. Farrior then hit Fred Thomas for 17 yards to set up first and goal at the 1-yard line. Farrior sneaked it in from there to give North Pulaski a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.

The Falcons (1-6, 0-4) got the ball back after stopping Jacksonville quarterback Aaron Smith for no gain on fourth and 2, but the next drive went disastrously.

Worthen stepped in front of a screen pass for an interception, and returned it 35 yards for the Red Devils’ first score of the game.

After the two teams traded a couple more drives, Jacksonville’s Richardson picked up a bouncing punt, dodged two tacklers and raced 50 yards for the score. With 10:46 left in the half, the Red Devils led 13-7 without having scored an offensive touchdown.

That finally changed on the Red Devils’ fifth possession. Starting from their own 35, an inside read handoff to Richardson went 39 yards to the North Pulaski 26. Smith kept on the next play for 21 yards. Two plays later, sophomore tailback Lamont Gause dived from 3 yards out. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving it 19-7 with 9:29 left in the second quarter and that’s how it remained until the break.

When the Falcons stopped turning it over in the third quarter, they moved the ball effectively.

On their fourth possession of the third quarter, and the first without a turnover, the Falcons went 55 yards in eight plays for their second touchdown of the game. After an initial carry by Farrior for no gain, Damon and Fred Thomas traded carries to get the ball down the field. Thomas got the final 21 on two carries, going 4 yards for the score. Randall Roach’s second extra point made it 39-14 with 3:22 left in the third quarter.

Jacksonville (5-2, 4-0) capped the scoring with 10:05 left in the game when Gause burst up the middle for 60 yards to set the final margin.

The Red Devils finished with 437 total yards while North Pulaski compiled 256. Damon Thomas led all rushers with 133 yards on 20 carries. Gause had 11 carries for 119 yards. Richardson finished with three carries for 94 yards, five receptions for 46 yards and three punt returns for 75 yards.

Jacksonville will host Little Rock Christian Academy next week. The Warriors lost 34-0 to Mills on Friday. North Pulaski travels to Helena-West Helena Central, 33-14 losers to Sylvan Hills.