Tuesday, August 26, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> LHS defense dominates

Leader sportswriter

Defense was the highlight for the Lonoke Jackrabbits in their benefit game at Maumelle on Monday, and even though the offensive execution wasn’t great, the Rabbits scored the game’s only offensive touchdown of the night to leave the exhibition ahead on the scoreboard, winning 8-7.

Despite the close score, Lonoke’s offensive yardage numbers were much greater than the host team’s. The Jackrabbits totaled 178 yards of offense in the 40-minute exhibition, bettering the Hornets’ total of 61 yards.

Lonoke had pretty good balance offensively, as 10 different ball carriers totaled 100 yards rushing for the Rabbits, and junior quarterback SaVonte Rountree finished the night with 78 yards passing.

Maumelle’s two quarterbacks combined to pass for 93 yards, but the Rabbits’ defense put the Hornets’ rushing numbers in the negative. Maumelle finished the benefit with minus 32 yards rushing.

Lonoke’s defense set the tone early, as it didn’t allow Maumelle to rush for a single positive yard in either of the Hornets’ first two offensive series.

“The defense played good,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “When you don’t let them score a touchdown, you know, that’s good. We had good effort on defense. I’m real proud of that.”

Lonoke’s offense looked as if it was well on its way to finding the end zone late in the first quarter. A 50-yard pass from Rountree to junior receiver Juwaun Bryant, and a 14-yard run by Rountree the next snap put Lonoke inside the Maumelle 10-yard line.

The Rabbits were able to get the ball all the way down to the Maumelle 2-yard line shortly after, but failed to punch it in, eventually turning it over on downs. However, the Rabbit defense was there to pick up the slack.

Lonoke got a safety on the fourth play of the ensuing drive after Maumelle quarterback Cameron Porras was flagged for grounding in the end zone, giving Lonoke the ball and a 2-0 lead with 9:13 remaining in the second quarter.

This time, though, Maumelle’s defense was the one to make a play. On the fourth play of Lonoke’s second-quarter drive, Rountree fumbled on a quarterback keeper, and Maumelle’s Michael Cole scooped the ball up in stride and returned it 27 yards into the end zone, which gave the Hornets their first and only lead at 7-2 with 7:26 remaining in the opening half.

The only other score of the night came late in the third quarter when Lonoke’s offense looked as if it was about to come up short inside the Maumelle 5-yard line for the second time.

After another promising drive that gave the Rabbit offense first and goal inside the 3-yard line, Lonoke failed to punch it in on the first two plays, and a fumbled snap pushed Lonoke back to the Maumelle six.

On fourth down, Lonoke went for it, and with the end zone covered, Rountree scrambled right and bulldozed his way inside the right pylon from six yards out for the go-ahead score.

“He just made a play on fourth down,” Bost said of the play. “He just made a play and stuck it in. I was real disappointed there in the first half. We had the ball on the 2-yard line and didn’t score, and you’ve got to score there. You’ve got to lower your head, make a block and get in there.

“Like I just told them, offense usually takes more time. It’s usually a little bit slower. You’ve got to have all 11 doing the right thing. Defense, you just run and get to the football.

“We had a couple of turnovers I didn’t like. We had some missed assignments, we had some dropped passes. We had some underthrown passes. So we’ve got some things to work on offensive-wise.”

Rountree was 3 for 11 passing for his 78 yards. He also had 14 yards rushing on nine carries and the game’s only offensive score. Junior tailback Josh Coleman had 30 rushing yards on 15 carries. Justin Meadows had three carries for 24 yards. Caleb Bailey had 19 yards on two carries.

Bryant led the Rabbit receiving corps with two receptions for 77 yards.

Lonoke will face a tough match-up in its season opener at home next Friday, as the Rabbits will take on the veteran-led Star City Bulldogs. Kickoff for that game is at 7 p.m.