Wednesday, September 04, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> NP Falcons after new win streak

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski tries to get the season off on the right foot when it hosts J.A. Fair at 7 p.m. Friday to open the 2013 football season. The Falcons had not won a game in almost three seasons when they beat Fair 13-12 last year in Little Rock. North Pulaski nearly tripled the Eagles in total yardage in that game, but turned the ball over three times inside the Eagle 20-yard line, twice inside the 5, and gave up a 47-yard touchdown with less than 10 seconds remaining. Fair went for the two-point conversion and the win, but the Falcons stopped them, ending their losing streak and continuing one for Fair.

The Eagles still haven’t stopped their losing streak. They are winless for the last two seasons and have only won two games since 2007.

That kind of streak can’t last forever, and North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram believes this year’s War Eagles are better than last year’s.

“I saw them in their scrimmage with Maumelle and Lonoke, and they’re definitely a better team than they were last year,” said Ingram. “They seem extremely quick on defense and that’s a major concern for me.”

The concern arises from Ingram’s evaluation of his own team’s intrasquad scrimmage, in which he wasn’t entirely pleased with the blocking.

“One of the things I noticed we’re not doing very well is picking up blitzes,” Ingram said.
“Now we had two linemen out in that scrimmage and we looked a little better last week because we got one of them back. Jesse Ringgold knows how to call the lines and having him back in there helps a lot. But we still have to improve because one of the things I noticed Fair did, was they blitzed all the time from everywhere.”

Ingram wasn’t only concerned with the blocking of his linemen. The head Falcon would also like to see his running backs recognize and pick up blitzes better. But he believes he’s already seen some improvement, and expects more during game week.

“With two out, we’ve had to move folks around on offense and we just didn’t look real sharp,” Ingram said. “We did a few things well and we made some good plays, we just have to find more consistency. I think that will come with more preparation and getting everyone back and healthy.”

While the defense has changed, the War Eagles are still running the spread offense as its base run package. Gone is the team’s best playmaker from last year, 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback Damarius Robinson, who transferred, so Fair is not as likely to throw the ball like it tried to do last season. But the quickness is still a concern for Ingram.

“They don’t have the big kid that scored on us last year, but they have more overall team speed I think,” Ingram said. “It doesn’t look like they’re going to throw it down field as much as last year, but then again, I don’t really know. My understanding is they had five or six guys that didn’t play, so I’m not really sure. I didn’t really see a whole lot. So even though I saw them play, we’re still going in kind of blind.”

The Falcons have found some added depth that should help. Darren Penn, who has practiced well since the start of two-a-days, has impressed Ingram enough to likely get the bulk of the work at fullback. That should free up David Jackson to focus primarily on inside linebacker.

“Jackson is capable of doing both very well and he has, but with the progress that Penn has made, we should be able to only play Jackson on defense,” Ingram said. “Penn has been a very pleasant surprise for us at fullback. He’s done a tremendous job.”

Penn’s emergence probably means only one player going both ways for Ingram, senior tailback/linebacker Fred Thomas.

“Fred has really stepped up this year and shown some leadership that he didn’t show last year,” Ingram said. “Of course this is only his second year to play varsity football. So I’m very excited about the growth and maturity I’ve seen from him.”

Ingram has talked all preseason about the team speed he has on defense this year that he didn’t have last year. Now that it’s game week, he’s focusing on keeping that speed in the right spots.

“We have to be disciplined on defense,” Ingram said. “They have good speed on the edges so we can’t over run. If we do, we’re going to give up some big plays. If we play good discipline football, good technique and we play our keys, I feel pretty good about it. They do have some talent I don’t think they had last year, but if we’re disciplined on defense and consistent on offense, we’ll be fine.”