Saturday, September 14, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville sputters again in loss

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville showed flashes of the offense it expected all summer to have, but more often looked like the same offense that stagnated last week against Cabot. The end result was a 31-21 home-opening loss to Benton on Friday, resulting in an 0-2 start to the season.

“We had some technique problems and to be honest with you, we had some effort problems,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “Everybody on the field has to play hard every play, the whole play. We weren’t lined up in the right position at times on defense, and that’s my fault. We have to get lined up right, we have to play better technique on offense and defense, and we have to do it quickly. We have one more game to get things worked out before it starts to count.”

The Red Devils took a 21-7 lead with three minutes left in the second quarter, but gave up an 80-yard drive in 1:08, a drive that turned out to be a foreshadowing of the second half. John Davis caught a 14-yard touchdown pass on third and 1 to make it 21-14 heading into intermission.

Benton got the ball to start the second half and drove 72 yards to the 7-yard line, but Jacksonville’s defense bowed up and held the Panthers out of the end zone, getting the ball back on downs.

After gaining just 3 yards, Red Devil receiver Robert Harris was stripped of the ball by Benton’s Gunnar Paul at the Red Devil 11-yard line.

But again, Jacksonville’s defense held. On fourth and 5, Brandon Toombs tipped a Terek Beaugard pass at the line of scrimmage, and Titus O’Neal picked it out of the air at the 8-yard line.

Jacksonville netted -2 yards when two incompletions followed a 2-yard gain and a false-start penalty.

The Red Devils punted and Benton started at the Jacksonville 43. Fullback Drew Dyer bullied his way up the middle for 26 yards on the first play. Quarterback Cason Maertens then hit Sam Baker for 6 yards on first down to the 11. Two incompletions followed, but a little trickery converted the fourth down. Benton lined both quarterbacks up in the backfield, snapped to Maertens, who hit Beaugard on the wheel route for an 11-yard touchdown pass. The extra point missed, leaving Jacksonville clinging to a 21-20 lead.

The Red Devils again went three and out, picking up 6 yards on first down, but nothing more.

Benton took over on its own 37 with 1:46 left in the third quarter, and made that distance up in just a minute and 11 seconds. Most of it came on the first play when Beaugard found Davis streaking down the left sideline for a 49-yard completion. Two plays later, he hit Nix for his second touchdown of the game. Beaugard also kept for the two-point conversion and a 28-21 Benton lead.

From that point, neither team could get much offense going. Benton got a 34-yard burst up the middle by tailback Shaun Carey for 34 yards to the Jacksonville 10. Three plays later, the Panthers hit a 26-yard field goal with 4:26 remaining in the game to set the final margin.

The first half was a series of momentum shifts as both teams struck quickly, then went into long slumps of inability to move the ball.

Jacksonville got the ball first and easily drove 57 yards for its first touchdown of the season with 8:50 left in the first quarter.

Damon Thomas rumbled 16 yards on the first play from scrimmage, and got just one more offensive touch the rest of the game. A holding penalty put Jacksonville in a hole of second and 21, but Lamont Gause went 18 yards up the middle on the next play and Carlin Herd got 4 yards on the next play to convert the first down. Jacksonville faced third and 7 two plays later, but Barnes found Avery Wells for a 13-yard completion to the 3-yard line. Gause punched it in from there for the score and John Herrman added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

It took Benton no time to answer. Quarterback Terek Beaugard hit Colton Nix about 20 yards downfield on first down from the 22. Jacksonville cornerback Josh Alcorn made the initial hit, but Nix broke the tackle and outran Alcorn to the end zone to quickly tie the score with 8:29 left.

The Red Devils’ second drive was just as impressive as the first. They marched 60 yards in six plays, getting half of it on a screen pass to Gause on the first play. The tailback also got the last catch, a 9-yard swing pass to the right side for the score with 6:57 left in the first quarter.

From that point, Jacksonville’s next four drives gained -4 yards. Benton got just 13 on its next three drives before gaining 44 on the first drive of the second quarter. But that drive ended with Thomas intercepting a Beaugard pass on the 5-yard line and returning 56 yards to the Benton 39. Defensive end Toombs applied the pressure that forced the errant pass, but Jacksonville lost 5 yards on the ensuing possession.

The Devil defense got the ball back, and the offense got back into form, driving 85 yards in 9 plays for the score and a 21-7 lead with three minutes left in the half.

Benton rolled up 516 total yards while Jacksonville totaled 352. The big disparity was in the second half. Benton had 259 yards at halftime while Jacksonville had 232.

Beaugard completed just 37 percent of his passes, hitting 13 of 35 attempts, but for 247 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran eight times for 48 yards. Carey finished with 17 carries for 129 yards to lead all rushers.

Barnes completed 23 of 42 attempts for 242, but was 15 of 20 for 179 in the first half.

Harris caught seven passes for 115 yards to lead Jacksonville.

The Red Devils will host Maumelle next week. The Hornets beat North Pulaski 42-0 on Friday.