Saturday, November 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Hornets topple Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

Despite out-gaining Maumelle in total yards, Lonoke committed five turnovers, and as a result, had to watch the Hornets celebrate midfield following their 34-13 victory over the Jackrabbits in the second round of the class 4A state football playoffs Friday at James B. Abraham Stadium.

Lonoke (9-3) came out fired up at the start of the game, and after the Jackrabbit defense took the field, it forced a three and out on Maumelle’s first possession. After the punt, Lonoke’s offense answered with a seven-play drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run up the middle by senior quarterback Kody Smith.

Jose Garcia’s extra point was good, giving the ’Rabbits an early 7-0 lead with 6:32 to play in the opening quarter. Unfortunately for Lonoke, the lead wouldn’t last long. On the second play of the Hornets’ ensuing possession, quarterback Tyshaun Robinson found a wide-open JB Minix behind the Jackrabbit secondary, and Minix took the pass 82 yards for an easy touchdown.

The successful PAT tied it up with 5:44 to play in the first. Lonoke’s offense retook the field after the kickoff, and after starting on its own 22, the Jackrabbits picked up two first downs before converting a fake punt on fourth down near midfield.

A bad snap the following play put the ’Rabbits in a second-and-26 situation, and it didn’t get any better from there. A false start penalty and an incomplete pass followed, and after a 2-yard run by Smith on third down, that made it fourth and 28 near the Maumelle 40.

Instead of electing to punt, Lonoke coach Doug Bost decided to go for it, and Smith’s desperation pass was intercepted by DaRayun Canada at the Hornet 20. Canada broke free down the Jackrabbit sideline, and took it the distance for the go-ahead touchdown with 11:42 remaining in the second quarter. The extra point made it 14-7 Maumelle (10-3).

Lonoke’s momentum appeared to be lost as it went three and out the following possession, and Maumelle answered with another score on its following drive.

Starting at their own 38, the Hornets scored after a seven-play drive that ended with another touchdown pass by Robinson, this one to junior Braylon Waits from 18-yards out with 7:35 to play in the half. The PAT set the halftime margin at 21-7 Maumelle.

“They scared us early,” said Maumelle coach Mike Buchan. “They went right down the field, and I thought it was going to be a long night. But we went to a different defense and that worked the rest of the half.

“Our guys just played hard. The offense played great tonight. We moved the ball and held onto the ball, and it was just a rotten night. In years past, we usually don’t play well when it gets cold. We don’t see this muddy stuff much, but they played great and I’m proud of them.”

Maumelle’s offense finished the game with zero turnovers. Lonoke received the ball at the start of the second half, and played like its season was on the line. Starting at its own 29, the ’Rabbits scored after a five-play drive ended with a 16-yard run by sophomore tailback Josh Coleman with 10:04 to play in the third quarter.

The extra-point attempt was no good, leaving the score 21-13 Hornets. Maumelle went three and out on its first possession of the half, but after its defense forced a Lonoke turnover on downs the next series, the Hornets put together a lengthy drive that ended with another score.

Penalties stalled the Hornets’ ability to move the ball down the field, but their playmakers got it done when the visitors needed it the most. On the 11th play of the lengthy drive, Robinson appeared to be stuffed in the backfield at the Lonoke 12-yard line on third down, but Robinson threw a lateral pass to Waits, who took it to the corner of the end zone for another Maumelle touchdown.

“It was just the way we drew it up,” Buchan joked about the lateral touchdown play. “He’ll try and do something every once in while that you don’t think would ever work, but most of the time it does.”

The PAT was blocked, but the touchdown put Maumelle up two possessions, leading 27-13 with 47 seconds to play in the third. Lonoke committed three of its five turnovers in the fourth quarter. The fifth one had a lot to do with the wet conditions.

With just seconds to play, Smith dropped back for a pass, but as he threw, the ball slipped out of his hand as he went through his delivery. As a result, the pass was intercepted by Maumelle’s Michael Cole at the Lonoke 22-yard line, and Cole returned it the distance for the game’s final touchdown. The successful PAT set the final score.

It was a tough ending for the Jackrabbits, who before Friday was on a four-game winning streak. Lonoke finished the game with 258 yards of offense. Maumelle totaled 210. Robinson threw just four passes in the game, but completed two of them for a total of 100 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

Coleman was the star offensively for Lonoke, as he finished the game with 24 carries for a game-high 158 yards and one touchdown.

Maumelle advances to next week’s quarterfinal round with the win. The Hornets will be the visiting team yet again as they travel to Valley View, who beat Prairie Grove 14-12 in northwest Arkansas on Friday.