Tuesday, June 03, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Badger fans get glimpse of team

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badger football team showed its largest numbers in the John Shannon era Friday at the annual Red-White spring scrimmage at “Bro” Erwin Stadium.

Beebe took to its turf Friday with 64 players that were divided evenly between varsity and junior varsity players – one team sporting black jerseys and the other wearing white jerseys – which in turn, led to a physical and competitive scrimmage.

With the even mix between the varsity and junior varsity players, there were early miscues on the offensive side of the ball for both teams, but regardless of those offensive miscues, each defensive unit showed promise that was noticeable from the start.

“We mixed up our JV guys with our varsity guys, so we knew it was going to be a little bit sloppy because our JV guys are a little bit behind, especially with the formations and some of the plays,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “They’re not as far along as our varsity guys.

“But overall, I was happy with the effort. I think that’s the most physical our defense has been this time of year in a long time around here, so we’re excited about that. We scrimmaged last week with our ones against the ones and it was real physical all week.

“We’ve got I think 64 kids on the team, the most we’ve ever had, and we’re excited about the future around here. We just hope that we can stay healthy. That’s going to be abig key, and improving each and every day.”

Even though both teams played solid defense at times throughout the scrimmage, there were plenty of offensive bright spots that came as the scrimmage progressed. Senior Aaron Nunez is back at the quarterback position after missing the majority of last season with an ACL tear. Friday’s scrimmage was the first real test to see how Nunez would react in a competitive game-type of setting since his surgery, and his play on the field drew plenty of praise from his head coach.

“I was pleased with Nunez,” Shannon said. “Nunez is coming off that knee surgery. This was really his first experience on it. He didn’t show any hesitation or anything like he was worried about it. He got in there and he ran the option extremely well.”

There was one play in particular that showed Shannon that Nunez is back at full strength. Augusta transfer Jo’Vaughn Wyrick took an option pitch from Nunez 60 yards down the home sideline for a touchdown – a run that was the result of Nunez’s patience, as he waited till he drew the last defender to him before he pitched the ball, and he took a big hit as a result, but got up without any problems.

“The one long run JoJo (Wyrick) had, Nunez stood in there till the last moment and pitched it and took a big hit, but that’s what we’ve got to have,” Shannon said. “It made me feel good about him, because I know now that he’s not worried about it.”

Wyrick, a junior, showed plenty of promise as a skill player. He made several plays on offense and did so from different spots. Wyrick lined up at running back and receiver, and Shannon said he may end up playing defense as well.

“He’s one of the fastest kids we’ve got on the team,” Shannon said of Wyrick. “He looked good running the ball. He caught the ball extremely well, and he’s still learning, too. Everything’s still new to him, and we think he’s going to help on offense or defense or maybe both.

“It depends on how good of a condition he gets in this summer, but he’s definitely good enough to help us on both sides of the ball.”

Another skill guy returning for Beebe is their leading rusher from a year ago, junior running back Tripp Smith. Smith had a stellar sophomore debut last year, as he became one of just three backs in the state to rush for 2,000 yards during the season.

He had several solid runs inside Friday, thanks in part to the blocking up front that opened up several holes for him and the rest of the Badger backs, but he showed his ability and speed on a 50-yard touchdown scamper on a run outside the left tackle.

“I thought Tripp ran the ball extremely hard inside and off tackle, which is what we like to do,” Shannon said.

The annual scrimmage marked the end of spring football for the Badgers, but they’ll have an active summer with summer workouts, 7-on-7 activities and team camps.