Saturday, September 06, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Late field goal sinks Devils

Leader sports editor

After dominating almost the entire game, Jacksonville’s defense made one big mistake that doomed its chances at getting a win in first-year coach Barry Hickingbotham’s inaugural game at the helm of the Red Devil program.

A late hit on a 5-yard gain on second down and 15 gave Maumelle first down at the Jacksonville 13-yard line with nine seconds left in the game. After a timeout, the Hornets lined up for a 30-yard field goal and nailed it to steal away a 9-7 victory at Jan Crow Stadium.

“The kids played their guts out and I’m proud of them for that,” said Hickingbotham. “The defense was outstanding, but when you’re a young team you can’t make mistakes like that. Getting a 15-yard penalty in that situation is the kind of thing we can’t have happen.”

The Jacksonville offense struggled mightily the entire game, but couldn’t move it hardly at all in the second half. After out-gaining Maumelle 126-97 in the first half, the Red Devils managed just 38 total yards in the second half and only two first downs. Senior tailback Lamont Gause carried six times for 73 yards in the first half, and finished the game with 12 carries for 77 yards.

Quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham completed 7 of 13 pass attempts for 48 yards in his seven series behind center. Senior Caleb Price completed 5 of 8 attempts for 30 yards in three series at quarterback. Both were usually under heavy pressure when they dropped back. The quarterback duo combined to lose 23 yards on four sacks. In all, Jacksonville dropped back to pass 28 times, gaining 78 yards in completions, but losing 40 on sack yardage and penalties to net just 38 yards in the passing game.

“We’re just going to go back to work on offense,” Hickingbotham said. “Just got to go back to work. We played a bunch of guys but we’re not in as good a shape as I thought we were. We still had a lot of guys cramping up. We took it kind of light Tuesday and Wednesday. We may have to address that and do something different. But they played hard. That’s one thing we were wanting to see, and I think we saw that.”

Jacksonville got the ball first and lost 4 yards before punting. Maumelle took over on the Jacksonville 42-yard line and scored in five plays. Tailback Kobe Pounders carried four times for 34 yards, including the last 15 on the fifth play. The extra point was no good, leaving Maumelle with a 6-0 lead with 8:01 left in the first quarter.

They wouldn’t score again until nine seconds remained as Jacksonville’s defense dominated all the action in between.

The Red Devils went scoreless on their first five drives but took the lead with 27 seconds left in the first half. Jacksonville went 80 yards in 13 plays. Brandon Hickingbotham completed two consecutive passes to Malcolm Crudup and Avery Wells to move the ball from the Jacksonville 41 to the Maumelle 34. After a 5-yard penalty on the Hornets, Gause scrambled 18 yards to the 11.

Two plays later, Crudup went 8 yards to set up third and 2. Gause got the 2 yards to set up first and goal at the 1-yard line. Crudup punched it in from there and John Herrmann added the extra point to send Jacksonville into the locker room with a one-point lead.

The whole second half was a defensive struggle until Maumelle’s 81-yard drive that ended the game. The Hornets played Cameron Porras at quarterback for most of the game, running Blake Conner onto the field when a direct snap running play was called. But on the last drive, the dual threat Conner stayed in the game for pass plays and put together Maumelle’s most effective drive of the night.

He only completed 5 of 11 attempts on the 16-play drive, but they were crucial completions. Maumelle converted on fourth and 1 on the first set of downs. A holding penalty on the next play set up first and 22, but back-to-back completions were good for 28 yards for first down at midfield. Another 12-yard pass put the ball at the Jacksonville 38.

Three straight incomplete passes made it fourth and 10, but Conner hooked with receiver Nick Ingram for a 14-yard gain with 24 seconds remaining.

After another incompletion and an illegal procedure penalty moved the ball back to the 29, Conner was forced to scramble for a 4-yard gain, and was hit out of bounds by defensive end Courtland McDonald at the 25-yard line. The penalty was half the distance to the goal and set up the 30-yard kick that won the game.

Jacksonville, 0-1, travels to Benton next Friday. The class 6A Panthers tied its class 7A rival Bryant 14-14 last night.