Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers hope to overcome injuries

Leader sports editor

The Beebe football team plays in its first-ever 5A-Central game at 7 p.m. Friday when it travels to Little Rock to take on the McClellan Crimson Lions. At the beginning of the season, the Badgers would have been considered a near lock to win the game, but the season has not gone as most predicted. Injuries have decimated the Badgers’ lineup and turnovers, all lost fumbles, have proved to be disastrous.

Meanwhile, McClellan didn’t look very good in its first two games, but played a tough schedule.

The Lions lost by 21 to Class 6A Sheridan and by 28 to Class 7A Bryant, and then pulled off the upset of the week last week by beating Lonoke 21-20 – a team that beat Beebe the previous week.

“They kind of shocked everybody by beating Lonoke,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “I thought Lonoke would handle them pretty easily, but they turned it over a couple of times and McClellan has that speed. They had a lot of fumbles against Lonoke like they did in the first two games, but that night they got them all back. The ball just bounced their way. It was kind of like our game with Lonoke when we won everywhere but on the scoreboard because we turned it over five times.”

McClellan is under second-year coach Maurice Moody, who has gone away from the Spread offense he ran last year, at least mostly away from it.

The Lions ran the Single Wing most of the time against Lonoke, but also utilized formations as disparate as the Spread and the Dead T.

“You have to play disciplined on defense with the speed they have,” Shannon said. “They lined up in the Single Wing and did some pretty good misdirection stuff. They got in the Dead T and let their big fullback lead the way on that.

“The quarterback doesn’t look like he throws it that well, but he throws it deep every time, and with their speed, he just throws it up and they go and get it. They give you a lot of prepare for.”

Beebe got some good news on injuries on Monday. Starting fullback Trip Smith should be available for his first action of the season after losing the tip of his finger in a weight-lifting accident right before the opening game.

But there was also a lot of bad news. Quarterback Aaron Nunez is definitely out this week, and probably the rest of the season. He will get an MRI today to determine exactly what the injury is to his knee he suffered last week against Vilonia. Early indications are it’s the ACL, which would end his season, but they won’t know for sure until the MRI.

“Most of the people we’ve talked to and have looked at it say it’s probably the ACL,” Shannon said. “One doctor said he thinks it might not be. We’ll hold out hope that he’s the one who’s right, but we’ll know for sure pretty soon.”

The defensive line has taken a big hit as well. Dusty Grier and Reese Anders suffered concussions against Vilonia and will miss Friday. Also questionable is Austin Huhn. Offensive lineman Spencer Tapp did not play last week with an undiagnosed illness, and he’ll find out if he can play later this week. Starting secondary player Justin Burlison, who is also the backup quarterback, hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury early in the first game. His status is also questionable.

Linebacker Bo Smith moved to quarterback last week when Nunez went down. Shannon said if he had to play today, Smith would be the starter, but that others are working at the position this week.

“Bo stepped in and did as well as you could ask of him,” Shannon said. “But with him in there we’re really limited to what we can do. He doesn’t run quite well enough to be effective in the option. So we’ll have to rely on the dive and the off-tackle stuff.

“If we get Burlison back, we still might be limited depending on how that knee feels, but we’ll be able to throw a little more.”