Saturday, October 04, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers come back on JHS

Leader sports editor

Beebe football coach John Shannon kept hope that if his team didn’t turn the ball over, which it has done an average of four times per game in its first four games, it would finally get a win. That’s exactly what happened, but it was a bit more difficult than even he might have expected.

The Badgers had no turnovers but still had to come from behind to beat Jacksonville 28-21 on homecoming night at Bro Erwin Stadium Friday. The game was tight despite two Jacksonville turnovers and 126 yards worth of penalties against the Red Devils.

“Their defense was tough,” Shannon said of Jacksonville. “It was tougher than maybe we even expected it to be. They made it hard for us all night long, but we were able to wear them down. We controlled the ball about the whole game and by the end; those 3- and 4-yard pops were turning into 6-, 7- and 8-yard pops. That’s what we do and we were able to hang onto the ball and get that done tonight.”

The game was not without controversy. Jacksonville scored quickly, and appeared to have covered a Beebe fumble on the Badgers’ second play from scrim mage, but a long delay ensued as the referees conferred in a huddle away from everyone else. When they emerged from conference, they declared an inadvertent whistle and Beebe elected to replay the down.

Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham was still upset with the call after the game.

“You know when you have a young team and you’re looking for some breaks, and something like that happens, it changes things,” said Hickingbotham. “We’re looking at a 20-yard drive to go up 14 and it takes them out of what they want to do. It’s tough. I never heard a whistle. That’s just an easy out for them to call that.”

Shannon also said he didn’t hear a whistle, but was happy to get the call.

“I didn’t hear it either but we haven’t had a break all year, so it was nice to finally get one,” Shannon said.

It didn’t take long for Jacksonville to get the scoring started. After a pooch kick left the Red Devils with first down at the 28-yard line, tailback Lamont Gause took a pitch left and went 72 yards down the visitors’ sideline for the score just 13 seconds into the game. John Herrmann added the extra point for a 7-0 Red Devil lead.

Beebe answered right back with a patented Badger drive, going 80 yards in nine plays, with the vast majority of that coming on the ninth play, and a whole lot of confusion on that first set of downs.

Two plays after the inadvertent whistle, Beebe faced fourth and 2 on the drive’s fifth play. Trip Smith picked up 9 yards for a first down. Four plays later, halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick took a misdirection handoff that confused the whole Jacksonville defense, and went 53 yards for the score.

The PAT was no good, leaving it 7-6 with 7:16 remaining in the first quarter.

Neither team was able to get much going after that. Jacksonville got away from running the ball and went 1 for 3 for 5 yards passing on its next drive before punting. Jacksonville’s defense stopped Beebe’s next drive when Anthony Fields sacked Justin Burlison to set up fourth and 17.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Gause took another pitch right 45 yards to the end zone, but it went down as a 19-yard gain with a 10-yard holding penalty. From there, three more pass plays resulted in no completions and two sacks by Dusty Grier for -16 yards.

Another Fields sack thwarted another Beebe drive, and after a 27-yard run by Gause, a 7-yard run by Laderrious Perry was followed by two more incomplete passes before another punt.

After another defensive stop, Jacksonville got its passing game going.

After a holding penalty cost Jacksonville 17 yards on first down, quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham hit Avery Wells for 35 yards to set up first down at the Beebe 47. Two plays later, Gause picked up 11 yards on a pass completion, and two plays after that Hickingbotham hit Jonathan Hall for 25 yards. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty added 9 yards to the end of the play, setting up first and goal from the 9. On the next play, Hickingbotham dropped back and found no receivers open, but did find the whole left side of the field open for an easy jaunt into the end zone for a 14-6 lead with 3:46 left in the first half.

Beebe drove to the Red Devil 18 on the next drive, but was stopped on fourth and 13 when Anthony Fields stopped quarterback Burlison’s scramble after just a 1-yard gain.

Gause had 118 yards on just his first three carries, with 34 more wiped away on the holding penalty that called back a touchdown. But Jacksonville abandoned the running game late in the second quarter and never tried to re-establish it.

“They took away the running game,” Hickingbotham said. “They were getting outside and we just weren’t picking people up. They just did a good job of taking us out of what we were trying to do.”

The passing game wasn’t working in the second half either. After piling up 187 yards of offense in the first half, Jacksonville gained only 56 yards in the second half.

Badger defensive end Dusty Grier was a constant presence in the Red Devil backfield, and finished the game with four sacks for 34 yards in losses.

Jacksonville completed just two passes in the second half, one a halfback pass from Courtland McDonald to Stevie Eskridge good for 38 yards, but Jacksonville lost 12 yards from there, 11 on a Grier sack, before punting. The only other completion of the half came on the Red Devils’ last play when Gause took a screen pass 31 yards for the game’s final score with 1:14 remaining.

Beebe tied the game late in the third quarter when fullback Trip Smith rumbled 45 yards and added the two-point conversion with 2:31 remaining.

Jacksonville’s next drive lost 5 yards before another punt, but the drive took less than two minutes off the clock. The Red Devil defense held once more, but was on the field too much to maintain the intensity later in the fourth.

After forcing the punt, Jacksonville threw one incomplete pass before Beebe’s Austin Huhn intercepted a screen pass at the Jacksonville 44.

Wyrick picked up 17 yards on first down. Two 11 yards runs, one by Wyrick and one by Smith capped the drive and gave the Badgers their first lead with 7:08 left in the game.

Jacksonville’s next drive also ended in an interception, this time by Clayton Meurer on a deep pass over the middle on just the second play. The Badgers took over at their own 32 and marched 68 yards in 11 plays to go up 28-14 with 1:31 remaining in the game.

Gause finished the game with seven carries for 116 yards to lead Jacksonville. Beebe had 359 total yards with two running backs breaking the 100-yard mark. Smith led the way with 30 carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Wyrick carried it 17 times for 148 yards and a score. Meurer carried 12 times for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Both teams are in tough next week, facing the two teams atop the 5A Central. Beebe hosts 5-0 Pulaski Academy while Jacksonville is back home against undefeated Sylvan Hills.