Saturday, November 09, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bears roll through Falcons in finale

Leader sports editor

The good news is that North Pulaski closed its final regular-season game by scoring 19 unanswered points. The bad news is that it trailed 48-0 when it went on its run that ended a 48-19 loss to Sylvan Hills on Thursday at Falcon Stadium.

Still, ending the game and the season on such a positive note is a small bit on which the team can begin to build for next season.

“I’ve always said since I got here that turning this thing around was going to hinge on the freshmen,” said North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram. “We’re a junior-heavy team. Those freshmen will be seniors next year so we’re still looking for that turnaround. This was at least a small thing to start it off with.”

The last two of those three unanswered touchdowns were against Sylvan Hills backups. The first was a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by senior Steven Farrior, who had a 50-yard return on the prior kickoff, but fumbled it away during the run.

North Pulaski dressed out only 23 players for the game with 14 sitting out due to injuries. Nine Falcons suffered season-ending injuries this year.

Bears’ coach Jim Withrow, knowing the Falcons had struggled even before the injuries, and had a badly depleted roster, decided to try to use the final game to work on aspects of the offense that had been lacking as the team gets ready for the playoffs.

Despite being such heavy favorites, he wasn’t sure how things would go on Thursday.

“We didn’t have a very good week of practice,” said Withrow. “To be honest, I was a little worried.”

Those worries were put to rest early in the game. Quarterback Trajan Doss completed five of 11 pass attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown, and ran seven times for 133 yards and three touchdowns. All passing yards were to Elijah Sowards and Nathan Thomas. Sowards caught two passes for 53 yards while Thomas caught two passes for 48 and a touchdown.

“I was pleasantly surprised with how we came out and executed because we just didn’t look good on Monday and Tuesday,” Withrow said. “Tra played a great game. We blocked well. The receivers ran good routes. The starters played a good game.”

The Bears got the ball first and kept it on the ground. They went 54 yards in eight plays. The big one a 26-yard run on third and 7 by Doss that gave Sylvan Hills first and goal at the 2-yard line.

The Falcons went three and out on their first possession, and the Bears took to the air on their next drive.

Doss hit three-straight passes and the drive took just 36 seconds. Starting from its own 45, Sylvan Hills got 15 yards on a catch by Thomas, 17 more to Sowards and the rest to Thomas again. The extra point made it 14-0 with 7:10 left in the first quarter.

The score stayed that way the rest of the first as North Pulaski was able to put together a couple of decent drives, but fumbled once at the Sylvan Hills 13 and gave it up on downs inside Bears’ territory on another drive.

On the second play of the second quarter, Doss kept on the read option and appeared to be stopped for no gain. Forward progress had stopped and players all stopped the action thinking the play was over.

That is all players but Doss. Noticing there had been no whistle, Doss came out of the pile up having never been taken down, looped around to the opposite side of the field and raced 42 yards before being caught by Kalise Vines at the 15-yard line. Three plays later, tailback Marlon Clemmons ran in from 7 yards out to make it 21-0 with 10:56 left in the half.

After another NP three and out, Doss threw two incompletions before hitting Sowards for a 36-yard gain to the 28. Doss got that all on the next play to make it 28-0 with 9:12 left in the half.

The Falcons got one first down on their next drive, but punted again. The Bears started at their own 33 and went that distance in seven plays, with Doss again getting loose for 26 yards and the score with 4:36 remaining.

There were still five touchdowns in the second half despite the sportsmanship clock running the entire time. Farrior’s fumble at the end of a long kickoff return set up a fast two-play drive by the Bears that made it 42-0. Sophomore running back Fred Williams capped the drive with a 37-yard run right up the middle.

The Bears’ next score was a 28-yard run by Quincy Flowers with 4:20 left in the third quarter that made it 48-0 with the missed extra point.

That’s when Farrior got his kickoff return. The Falcons held Sylvan Hills to consecutive possessions without a first down, and scored after both of them.

The first was a 1-yard run by quarterback Michael Barnes, set up by a 28-yard scamper by Vines.

On the next drive, Barnes hit Tracy Reed for 16 yards up the middle on third and 6 to keep the drive alive. Vines got the rest, scoring from 15 yards out to set the final margin with 1:37 remaining in the game.

Vines led North Pulaski with 17 carries for 92 yards. The Falcons had 168 total yards to 378 for the Bears.

Sylvan Hills will play at Hope at 7 p.m. next Friday in the first round of the class 5A playoffs.