Tuesday, October 07, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers hosting potent offense

Leader sportswriter

Beebe got its first win of the season last week against Jacksonville, but the Badgers’ opponent this week will be their toughest test of the season as they’ll host two-time defending 5A-Central Conference champion and Class 5A’s No. 2-ranked Pulaski Academy Bruins this Friday at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The Bruins (4-1, 2-0) have had little trouble scoring points since conference play began in week four, but the defense has stepped us as well, allowing just three scores in the last two weeks.

However, offense is typically what Pulaski Academy hangs its hat on, and as usual, its highly-potent offense has been hitting on all cylinders since the regular season began – averaging 49 points per game.

“They’re good at what they do,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “They like to spread you out. They’ve got a good running back and they’re good at throwing the football. They’ve got all kinds of different formations and they try to get you to line up wrong, and take advantage of you when you’re lined up wrong.

“So it is a big challenge. We’re going to have to be sure to line up quickly on defense, and then, of course, on offense, we’re going to have to be sure not to turn the ball over. I think the best chance we got is to hang onto the football and keep their offense on the sideline.”

Senior Bruin, Will Hefley (6-5, 205), returns at quarterback after passing for 4,152 yards, 54 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 10 games in 2013. He also had a 66 percent completion percentage.

Junior Bruin, Tre Bruce (6-0, 190), is the most versatile PA offensive player. He lines up at quarterback, running back and receiver. Last year, he threw eight TD passes, ran for 579 yards and six scores, and caught 46 passes for 534 yards and seven TDs.

The Bruins’ top receivers are senior Will Hastings (5-10, 165) and junior Zach Kelley (5-7, 145), who’s the coach’s son. Hastings is the fastest Bruin with 4.4 speed, and is also the team’s kicker.

Hastings caught 67 passes for 1,400 yards and 21 TDs a year ago, and is stellar at onside kicks, which is what the Bruins do on every kickoff. Kelley caught 84 passes for 1,582 yards and 21 TDs as a sophomore, and he possesses 4.49 speed.

The good thing about Beebe’s run-oriented Dead-T attack is that it can counter the Bruins’ pass-happy offense by controlling the clock, which will keep that highly-potent offense on the sideline longer than it’d like.

“It’s going to be a big part of our game plan,” Shannon said. “That’s what we like to do anyway is control the game by controlling the ball. Last time we played them in ’08, we had a lot of yards but we turned it over six times. They’re definitely a team that you can’t give extra possessions to.

“Our goal this week is to get the onside kicks and to not turn the ball over. If we do those two things we feel like we’ll have a chance in the fourth quarter.”

In addition to going for the onside kick every kickoff, Pulaski Academy also goes for it on fourth down regardless of its field positioning, something that has gained the program national exposure over the years – in large part because the Bruins have been very successful at converting each aspect.

Defensively, PA is multiple, but Shannon expects to see some type of eight-man front against his offense on Friday night.

“I think we’re going to see some kind of eight-man front,” Shannon said. “It could be a 4-4, 5-3, 6-2 – something in that range there. Which one, we don’t really know, but that’s how it is every week. We never know how teams are going to line up against us because we never see teams that do what we do.

“We’ll just have to go with what we’ve been taught, apply our rules and get off the football. I expect them to try and bring everybody and try to stop us before we get started.”

The Badgers (1-4, 1-1) will enter Friday’s conference game without another one of their players. They’ve been bitten hard by the injury bug this season, and even though junior fullback Trip Smith is back and appears to be 100 percent, several others have been lost because of various injuries.

After losing starting quarterback Aaron Nunez for the season because of an ACL injury, fellow senior Drake Henderson, who is the team’s punter as well as a contributor on the defensive line, won’t play Friday because he broke three of his fingers on a hit during the Jacksonville game.

One of the broken fingers will require surgery, which could end his season.