Tuesday, October 23, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats put sights on Bombers

Leader sports editor

The only undefeated team in 7A/6A East play travels to take on the only winless team in league play when North Little Rock faces Mountain Home on Friday. The Wildcats are fresh off their second shutout since conference play began. They manhandled Marion 52-0 at home last Friday, giving up just 77 yards of total offense.

Mountain Home may not be as easy to keep out of the end zone. Despite sitting at 0-5 in conference play, the Bombers have scored at least 17 points in all five games and at least 20 in three of them.

Mountain Home’s best offensive game came in a 44-41 loss to Searcy three games ago. Since then the Bombers have lost 42-17 to Cabot, 49-25 to Jonesboro and 42-20 to Little Rock Central.

North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding is sticking with script of focusing primarily on his own team in preparation for the next game, though there are some things about going to Mountain Home that are worrisome.

“It’s a long ride up there so we really want to be focused on having our mind right and not having any slip ups because we don’t have our heads in the game early,” Bolding said. “Our kids respect everybody we play, and we’ve got to respect Mountain Home. They have a good offense and any time you go on the road it’s a hostile environment.

“We have to sharpen our edge a little bit and focus on the mistakes we made and get down to the little bitty, nitpicky things.”

While the Bombers have been good on offense, they will face the toughest defense on their schedule this week. The Charging Wildcats have yielded an average of 9.3 points per game in conference play, and only Cabot and Jonesboro have scored against their starters in five games.

“I think our defense has played extremely well,” Bolding said. “We gave it to Jonesboro inside our own 20 twice. Cabot moved it down the field on us a couple of times, but we came up with a big stop and were able to shut them down the rest of the game. Other than that, our defense has been really good.”

Bolding would still like to see more consistency on offense, but his main gripe after last week’s win was kickoff coverage.

“Marion had several good kickoff returns, and the reason for it was breakdowns on our end,” Bolding said. “Had they done it when we did our job right, we might not be addressing it as much as we are. We had people running out of lanes and creating space for their return men. They have some guys that can run and they did a good job of exploiting our mistakes.”

Getting those mistakes corrected is priority number one this week.

“We hang our hat on not making the same mistakes again,” Bolding said. “Offensively and on special teams, I expect we’ll get those things corrected and keep moving forward.”