Saturday, September 13, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Late drive lifts Jackrabbits

Leader sports editor

Big pass plays and lost fumbles once again spelled doom for the Beebe Badgers, as Lonoke entered Bro Erwin Stadium and beat rival Beebe 30-26 in the Battle of Hwy. 31 on Friday.

The Jackrabbits, 1-1, had trouble sustaining drives most of the game, but hit two long touchdown passes in the first half and came up with a big drive when it counted the most.

Beebe, 0-2, led 26-22 and was driving inside the Lonoke 20-yard line with time expiring in the fourth quarter, but the Badgers coughed up the ball for the fifth time in the game and Lonoke covered it for the fourth time at its own 9-yard line with 2:42 remaining in the game.

The Jackrabbits then marched the distance of the field to score with 22 seconds remaining to earn the victory.

“Beebe is so much bigger than us up front and we were having such a tough time stopping that running game of theirs,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “But the defense came through, forcing that fumble at the end to give us a chance. Then we were able to get that drive going and just found a way to win. I’m so proud of them. They just found a way to win.”

The final drive started with a holding penalty on Lonoke that the Badgers declined. On the next play, quarterback SaVonte Rountree hit Caleb Bailey for a 28-yard gain to the 37. On first down, Rountree found sophomore Logan Dozier for a 12-yard gain and Rountree scrambled for 5 yards on the next play. An illegal procedure penalty pushed it back to midfield to set up second down and 10.

Rountree then hit junior receiver Justin Meadows for the fifth time in the game, this time for 18 yards and another first down. Beebe’s Jesse Crisco pressured Rountree and forced him to throw it away. Dusty Grier got pressure on Rountree again, but the junior broke a tackle and hit Chandler Elmore along the Lonoke sideline for a 20-yard pickup to the Beebe 12-yard line with 1:28 remaining.

Beebe again forced Rountree out of the pocket and stopped him for a 3-yard gain on the next play. The Badgers finally got to Rountree when linebacker Hunter King sacked him for a 3-yard loss, but the secondary was called for defensive holding. Instead of third and 10, Lonoke now had second and 3 with 42 seconds left. The quarterback called his own number on the next play and got just enough for a first down at the 2.

Lonoke then went to its wildcat formation with Dozier at quarterback, but the sturdy sophomore was stopped for a 1-yard loss on first down. Bost called a timeout to talk about the next play, and came back out in the wildcat again. This time Dozier faked the run, stopping short of the line of scrimmage and dumping off to Elmore for the touchdown.

Meadows converted the two points when he hauled in a tipped pass in the back corner of the end zone with 22 seconds left to set the final margin.

“We decided to switch things up and go to the wildcat when we got down there close,” Bost said. “They were pressuring us a lot and we wanted to do something about all those big guys they’ve got up front.”

Beebe didn’t give up. Badger quarterback Aaron Nunez hit Jo’Vaughn Wyrick for a 38-yard completion on the first play of the ensuing drive, but Wyrick took a big hit and fumbled it away to seal the victory for Lonoke.

Beebe got the ball first and drove to the Lonoke 24-yard line before Crisco fumbled and Lonoke’s Trey Bevis covered it. Meadows went 2 yards on the first carry, and got the other 74 on a pass over the top of the defense with 5:25 left in the first quarter. The extra point was blocked, leaving it 6-0.

The Badgers drove 19 yards to the Lonoke 41 before fumbling it away again, but Lonoke gave it right back with its lone turnover of the game on the first snap. This time Beebe held onto the ball and drove 42 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-6 lead with 10:05 left in the half.

The Badger defense forced a three-and-out series by Lonoke, but fumbled it away again after driving 32 yards to the Lonoke 49.

The Badger defense held when Grier sacked Rountree on fourth and 6 at the Beebe 23, but the Badgers went backwards 3 yards and punted with 1:11 left in the half. Lonoke scored just 19 seconds later.

A 20-yard reception by Elmore was followed by a 38-yard touchdown connection between Rountree and Meadows with 52 seconds left in the half that gave Lonoke a 14-7 lead.

Beebe wasn’t done, however. Starting at the 36, Wyrick picked up 17 yards on first down. Expecting Beebe to pass, Lonoke dropped its defense back, but the Badgers ran a wrap-around handoff to Wyrick, who broke up the middle for 15 yards before encountering a defender.

He broke one tackle and raced to the Lonoke 6 before being dragged down from behind. Nunez got 5 on the next play, and then plunged in from 1-yard out with three seconds left on the clock. A bad snap on the extra point left it 14-13 at the break, even though Lonoke only had the ball for 5:44 the entire first half.

The lead changed hands with each of the four touchdowns in the second half. After forcing a three-and-out, Beebe scored on a four-play, 75-yard drive, but the extra point failed again, leaving it 19-14. Cleyton Meurer picked up 41 on the first play and fullback Xavier Jones burst up the middle for the final 27 to cap the drive.

Lonoke answered with a 67-yard drive, with Rountree scoring on third and goal from the 6 after being forced to scramble out of the pocket. Dozier’s two-point conversion made it 22-19.

Beebe answered 10-play, 65-yard drive with Jones doing most of the work. He capped the drive by bulling his way in from 1-yard out and the extra point made it 26-22.

Beebe then stopped Lonoke and had put together a 12-play drive when the fourth and costliest fumble occurred inside the Lonoke 10.

Rountree finished the game completing eight of 15 pass attempts for 254 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 16 times for 71 yards and a score. Meadows was his favorite target. He caught five passes for 168 yards and two scores.

Beebe had two running backs surpass 100 yards. Wyrick led the way with 116 yards on 12 carries. Jones rushed 19 times for 112 yards and three touchdowns.

Lonoke finished with 365 total yards and Beebe had 362.

Both teams are on the road next week. Beebe is at Vilonia and Lonoke travels to McClellan.