Saturday, October 05, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers dominate line and Mustangs

Leader sports editor

The final score may not indicate it, but the Beebe Badgers dominated Forrest City in their 37-20 win Friday at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium. The game was tied at 14 at halftime, but the table was set for the Badgers to roll in the second half. And roll they did. Beebe outgained the Mustangs 393 to 90 in total yards, and outscored them 23-6 after the break.

The Beebe defense, which had been shoddy in its first two games and steadily improving ever since, came through with an utterly dominant performance.

“They’re finally starting to play like I thought they were capable of playing,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “The only thing I can contribute to it is that they were so afraid of making a mistake, they weren’t getting after it. They were letting everything come to them, standing around waiting for it. Here lately, they’ve been flying around like they did in practice. All year there have been times in practice they’ve made it nearly impossible for us to get a first down on offense. They’re finally bringing that to the game. We talked to them about it and told them, ‘if you make a mistake, make it full speed and just go’. They’ve started playing that way and it’s made all the difference in the world.”

Beebe is now 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the 5A East after losing its first two games. The fact that the wins have come with backup quarterback Micah Dubois playing in place of two-year starter Aaron Nunez may make the turnaround even more surprising to some, but not to Shannon.

“We felt all along like we had two good quarterbacks,” Shannon said. “We just thought Nunez could make a few plays Dubois couldn’t make, particularly in the passing game. But we even talked about having a two-quarterback system so we could get Nunez on defense a little bit. So we’ve always been comfortable with Micah. And really, Nunez was struggling trying to make every single play instead of relaxing and letting the game come to him. Dubois has done a great job of seeing what the defense is giving us and just running this offense.”

The Mustangs scored first after the Badgers turned the ball over for the first time in three games. With 7:38 left in the first quarter, Forrest City tailback Joseph Tripp ran 5 yards for a 6-0 Forrest City lead. It stayed that way until late in the second quarter, when three touchdowns were scored in about a three-minute span.

Beebe sophomore fullback Trip Smith ran 27 yards for the score and Tyler Jones added the extra point to make it 7-6 with 4:42 left in the half.

Beebe’s Marcus Burns intercepted a Forrest City pass to give possession back to the Badgers, and Smith capitalized with a 3-yard run with 1:17 left in the half.

But just 11 seconds later, Tripp took the ensuing kickoff 65 yards for the score and converted the two points to tie the game going into intermission.

Beebe put together a long drive to start the second half, but it stalled at the 6-yard line. Jones hit a 23-yard field goal with 6:09 left in the third quarter for a 17-14 Beebe lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, halfback Dakota Mahoney got the first of two late touchdowns, scampering 14 yards after a Connor Patrom interception to make it 24-14 with 11:34 left in the game.

After three incomplete passes, Forrest City attempted to punt. But Jesse Crisco blocked it, scooped it up and scored. The extra point was no good, leaving the score 30-14.

Forrest City got almost all of its second-half yardage on its next drive, which ended with quarterback Ethan Adams scrambling out of pressure and running 20 yards for a touchdown with 9:21 left in the game.

Four minutes later, Mahoney rumbled 29 yards on the dive play and Jones’ extra point set the final margin.

Shannon gave his offensive line most of the credit for the huge rushing totals.

“I’m really proud of my linemen tonight,” Shannon said. “They’ve been pretty good all along, but they keep getting better each and every week. Tonight we played the type of football that Mr. Malham Sr. would’ve been proud of. We just pounded and grounded, and really wore them out. They were dragging at the end. They went out and physically whipped us last year. But my kids came back and took that challenge and dominated that line of scrimmage.”

Smith finished with 157 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Mahoney had 14 carries for 83 yards and two scores. Dubois finished with 11 carries for 66 yards.

The tests keep getting bigger for Beebe. Next week they hit the road to take on perennial power Wynne. The Yellowjackets are on a four-game winning streak after dropping its opener by one point to class 6A Marion. They beat Greene County Tech 46-26 on the road on Friday.