Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Devils stay healthy Saturday

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville football coach Rick Russell easily summarized what he got out of Saturday’s Red-White intrasquad scrimmage at Jan Crow Stadium.

“We got a fundraiser out of it, and we got out of here without any of my players leaving in an ambulance,” said Russell, who saw standout receiver Robert Harris lost for the season with a severely broken ankle in last year’s Red-White game.

“We didn’t do any full-on, one versus ones because we’ve got to get to the first game healthy,” Russell said. “As far as what we looked like considering the format, I was pleased. The starters produced on offense and got stops on defense. That’s what you want to see.”

The best thing about the Red-White game, according to Russell, is that it brought an end to preseason practice. The Red Devils open the season on Tuesday against Cabot, meaning two extra game-plan practices on Monday and Tuesday before shifting into game-week mode on Wednesday.

“Preseason is over,” Russell said. “We have a game to get ready for now. We’ve got the foundation installed on offense and defense and now we go to work on what we’re doing for each opponent. That’s the best thing about this game. Preseason is over. All the preparation all the way back to the start of offseason last year, all that’s done. Now we build on that and move forward and have a successful season.”

Jacksonville’s starting offense took little time in getting to the end zone. Tailback Lamont Gause took a swing pass to the right 45 yards to the 5-yard line on the second play. He carried it up the middle for those remaining five yards on the very next play.

Gause then carried 16 yards on the next play from midfield. Quarterback Reggie Barnes dropped back to pass on the next play, but after finding no one open, scrambled for a 15-yard gain.

Harris caught a pass for 8 yards that was called back for holding. On first down and 12 from the 21-yard line, Barnes hit Devin James for a 17-yard gain. James then carried it in from 4-yards out for another score by the starters.

They needed just two plays on the next set of downs. A reverse handoff to Harris picked up 28 yards. Barnes then found Kajahn Daniels for a 22-yard scoring strike to end the starting offense’s first possession.

Linebackers Durrell White and Justin Abbott got back-to-back tackles for loss to start the starting defense’s night. After one incomplete pass by Brandon Hickingbotham, linebacker Jacob Price picked off a Hickingbotham pass.

The next two passes were also incomplete before KaJahn Daniels finally picked up positive yardage with a 6-yard run.

Quarterback Caleb Price then threw incomplete and Malcolm Crudup lost two yards as he was gang tackled by White, Abbott and Price.

On fourth and 8, Price dropped back to pass, but after being unable to find an open receiver, pulled the ball down and scrambled 10 yards for the scout offense’s first first down.

Price then hit Crudup for a 5-yard gain, then scrambled up the middle for another 10-yard gain and first down. But that was all the positive yardage the backup offense could muster.

The final stage saw the starting offense go against a mostly starting defense. The four down linemen weren’t starters, but the linebackers, safeties and corners were.

The offense put the defense on its heels for the first several plays. Starting from the 35-yard line, the offense marched 59 yards in seven plays to the 6-yard line. Avery Wells caught a 4-yard swing pass before Barnes hit Harris for 16. Barnes then scrambled for 11 and Gause ran for 13 on the next play. Jerrell Thomas dropped a pass on first down, but Daniels caught a 7-yard pass from Barnes and Carlin Herd ran for 8 to set up first and goal at the 6.

From there the defense buckled down. Two incompletions were followed by a 4-yard loss on a sack by Terry Brown to set up fourth and goal from the 10. Kicker John Hermann nailed a 27-yard field goal to end the scrimmage.