Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats battling Patriots at home

Leader sports editor

North Little Rock played its best road game of the season last week when it dominated then conference unbeaten Searcy 42-13. Still, the Charging Wildcats are glad to be home for the first time in three weeks and only the third time all season when they take on Marion this Friday.

The Wildcats have scarcely been tested in its two home games, though they’ve been against two of the better teams on their schedule. In its home opener, the Wildcats destroyed Pine Bluff 47-10. That loss is still the only one of the season for the Zebras. On Sept. 28, North Little Rock shut out West Memphis 42-0 to hand the Blue Devils their only mercy rule loss since the rule began eight years ago.

“We’re excited to be back,” North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said. “We’ve been traveling northeast the last couple of weeks and I think we did a lot better in the second one. But we like playing at home. I feel like we play pretty good here and it’s homecoming. That gives you even more to play for. We always have a lot of our players come back on homecoming and you want to put on a good performance for them. It’s pretty neat for our guys.”

Running back Juan Day left last week’s game in the second quarter after suffering a mild concussion. He ran for 197 yards the week before at Jonesboro, and was averaging nearly 10 yards per carry when he left the Searcy game.

“He’s going to be fine,” Bolding said. “He’s day by day. We’ll evaluate him and see where he’s at. Considering the depth we have, we’re not ever going to rush anyone back too soon. But as far as headaches or anything like that, he’s not showing any more symptoms.”

North Little Rock’s other starting running back is quite capable of handling the duties in Day’s absence. Senior Altee Tenpenny, who has verbally committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide, racked up more than 250 all-purpose yards last week. He had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, ran 16 times for 102 yards and had 40 yards receiving.

After giving up some big plays against Jonesboro, the Wildcats’ defense dominated Searcy like it has every other team on its schedule.

Lost in the West Memphis game was 6-foot-3, 315-pound defensive tackle Kenny Howard to a torn ACL. His replacement, George Brown, has played well and will need to continue to do so.

“We have two or three people rotating there now but George is the main one,” Bolding said. “Obviously he’s not as big or experienced. He’s a junior and he’s done a good job of getting in there and getting after it. We’re pleased with him.”

North Little Rock is giving up about 13 points per game, but Bolding says that number is not indicative of how well his defense has played.

“That number is a little deceiving because we’ve had some special teams breakdowns and given up points there,” Bolding said. “Another 14 was against our second and third guys. I think our starting defense has played extremely well for the most part.”