Tuesday, October 09, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats want to improve road play

Leader sports editor

North Little Rock survived it’s biggest scare of the conference season last Friday at Jonesboro, and has another road match against an improving Searcy team awaiting it this week.

Conditions in last week’s game weren’t conducive to an exciting offensive game, but the Charging Wildcats pulled out just enough to come back from a quick 13-point deficit and win 27-20.

“We just didn’t adapt to the weather very well,” North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said. “Sideways rain, 20 mile-per-hour wind, really cold – I just think we let that get to us a little more than we should have.”

North Little Rock did a good job all night against Jonesboro’s all-state running back Martin Stafford, but failed on a couple of occasions to contain speedy quarterback D.J. Anderson. The converted receiver got loose for a 50-yard touchdown run on the first set of downs of the game, and North Little Rock responded by fumbling the ball away on its own first set of downs.

North little Rock’s red zone offense was not good in the first half either. One drive in the first quarter stalled inside the Jonesboro 1-yard line. Another stalled at the 2.

“I think in normal circumstances we probably kick a field goal in those situations, but conditions weren’t good for that at all,” Bolding said.

“After falling behind 13-0 in the first four minutes, the Wildcats went into halftime trailing 13-7, but were disappointed in the missed opportunities on offense, blown assignments on defense and long returns allowed on special teams.

“We just did not play well in the first half,” Bolding said. “No area of the game could you look at and say we did a good job. We really had a come to Jesus meeting at halftime, especially with our defense, and they responded very well in the second half.”

After giving up another quick50-yard touchdown to Anderson, North Little Rock allowed just three first downs the entire second half. Senior safety Gary Vines had two interceptions including one that set up the game-winning score and another that put a halt to Jonesboro’s final drive.

“I’m not one to make excuses and I’m not going to let the kids make them, but we were not comfortable in those conditions,” Bolding said. “It was our first and only game on grass. It hurt our speed, but they had to deal with it too. It’s not like it was only rainy, windy and cold on our side of the ball. Jonesboro’s a good team. For the kids to rally and come back like they did, to show that determination was good to see.”

The Wildcats, who always seem to play much better at home, has an enigmatic team ahead of them for this week. Searcy put the breaks on Marion’s high-powered offense in a 17-0 win on Friday.

The week before, the Lions barely escaped Mountain Home with a 44-41 victory – the same Mountain Home team that Marion beat 53-18.

“You just never can tell what you’re going to get from high school kids sometimes,” Bolding said. “I can’t explain scores like that, but I can tell you it looks like Searcy is getting a lot better, especially defensively. We’re going to have to execute well on offense because they can apparently shut teams down.”

North Little Rock threw the ball just three times last week, and it was junior running back Juan Day that got the bulk of the carries, instead of senior Alabama commit Altee Tenpenny.

Day turned in an outstanding performance as the feature back.

He carried 21 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns in the rain and win at Jonesboro. Tenpenny had 12 carries for 63 yards.

“We’re going to give it to the guy who’s hot,” Bolding said. Altee has had two games in a row that aren’t good. That’s been addressed and I fully expect him to respond. I think we’re going to see something from him this week.”

Bolding also hasn’t been totally pleased with the run blocking, and thinks that will, and must, improve this week.

“Our running game is better than what it’s been the last two weeks,” Bolding said. “With the guys we have back there, we should be doing more on the ground. And it’s not just them. We’re not executing on the line like we’re capable of and like we’re going to need to against good teams.”