Saturday, November 02, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Late trickery lifts Lonoke to huge win

Leader sportswriter

Stuttgart gave Lonoke a scare at the end of Friday’s 4A-2 Conference showdown at James B. Abraham Stadium, but the Jackrabbits made enough plays late to win 20-18, and lock up the No. 2 playoff seed out of the conference.

The Jackrabbits (7-2, 5-1) were leading the Ricebirds (4-5, 3-3) 14-3 late in the fourth quarter, but Stuttgart quarterback Malik Brasfield finally found some success in the passing game as he connected with senior wideout Jackson Kennedy for a 28-yard touchdown pass with 4:39 to play.

Tyler Luster punched in the two-point try the following play to cut Lonoke’s lead to three at 14-11. The momentum was quickly shifting to Stuttgart’s side as sophomore tailback Josh Coleman was brought down for a 2-yard loss on the Jackrabbits’ first play of the ensuing drive. But the home crowd was given reason to cheer again the very next play.

Senior quarterback Kody Smith took the shotgun snap, and handed off to Coleman on what appeared to be a sweep left, but as Coleman ran left, wide receiver Blake Mack ran the opposite direction behind Coleman, and Coleman tossed the ball to Mack for a reverse.

Mack had just one man to beat after that, and the senior Arkansas State commit got by his defender and dashed 64 yards for what ended up being the game-clinching score with 3:40 to play.

“In the second half, their defense shut us down,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “They shut us down until Blake was able to hit the reverse. That was huge, but I felt like our defense for three and a half quarters did the job.”

The Ricebirds put together another solid drive on their final offensive possession. A nine-play drive that took just 1:40 off the clock ended with another touchdown pass from Brasfield to Kennedy – this one from 30 yards out. The successful PAT set the final score with 2:01 to play.

Stuttgart came too close to getting the onside kick that followed, but the Jackrabbits managed to cover it, and Coleman broke up the middle for a 21-yard gain on the first play of the game’s final drive.

Coleman picked up seven yards on the next play with another run, but was held to no gain on second down. Lonoke needed a first down to end the game, and on third and 3, Smith ran for five yards on a read-option keeper to seal the game for the Jackrabbits.

“Stuttgart opened it up and started passing it, and drove it on those last series,” Bost said. “That hurt us, but we were able to come back on offense and get the two first downs to run the clock out. Our kids did a great job.

“We knew it would be a hard-fought battle. That’s just how Stuttgart plays. They’re physical and they hit you in the mouth, and that’s what they did tonight.”

It was a valiant comeback effort by Stuttgart, who trailed 14-3 at halftime. The Ricebirds scored on the game’s first possession after a nine-play drive that ended with a 17-yard field goal by Kennedy to put the visitors up 3-0.

Lonoke went three and out on its first possession, and had to begin their second drive from their own 1-yard line thanks to a stellar Stuttgart punt. But on the first snap of the drive, Smith broke for a 49-yard run before being brought down at the 50.

The Jackrabbits steadily moved the ball from there, and were able to score on a 13-yard run by Coleman with 11:16 to play in the second quarter.

Lonoke’s final score of the first half was set up by a 71-yard run by Coleman on the first play of the drive, and three plays later, he scored his second touchdown on a 5-yard run with 4:05 to play in the second quarter. The Jackrabbits finished with 405 yards of offense, bettering the Ricebirds’ total of 349. Coleman finished with 16 carries for 135 yards and two scores, while Smith had 20 carries for 128 yards. Mack totaled 96 yards of offense as he finished with two receptions for 30 yards, and four carries for 66 yards and one touchdown.

Regardless of who wins next week’s regular-season finale at Clinton, the Jackrabbits will host a playoff game as the No. 2 seed when the playoffs start Nov. 15. Next week’s game at Clinton is set to kickoff at 7 p.m.