Saturday, November 01, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers win in shocker

Leader sports editor

It took nine weeks, but the Beebe Badgers finally played a game at full strength Friday, and finally played like the team they thought they could be all along. The result was a 41-37 upset of No. 4 ranked and undefeated Sylvan Hills at Blackwood Field in Sherwood. The victory assures the Badgers of a playoff spot, while dashing the Bears’ hopes of a perfect regular season and outright conference championship.

The Badgers suffered through numerous injuries and a rash of turnovers in getting off to a disappointing 0-4 start, but head coach John Shannon believes the team that took the field on Friday is the team he thought he had all along.

“This team has been through so much,” said Shannon. “There’s been injuries, personal problems, you name it. They just showed so much heart and never gave up, and finally came out and looked like the team I thought we had. I kept telling them to hang in there and they stayed after it.”

Beebe fullback Trip Smith, who carried 40 times for 209 yards and four touchdowns, indicated that Shannon’s message to his players got through.

“Coach told us all along that we were good enough to play with these top teams, and to just keep work ing,” said Smith. “This game means so much. It just proves coach was right.”

That key statistic in the game was extra points. Both teams scored six touchdowns. Beebe converted five extra points while Sylvan Hills failed on five, including three blocked kicks by Beebe.

“We hadn’t had that problem all year,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow of the kicking woes. “I don’t really know what happened. It was just one of those nights. They just came out here, played a good game and beat us.”

Nothing is really lost yet for Sylvan Hills. The Bears can still win a share of the 5A-Central Conference championship and earn a No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a win next week at Pulaski Academy.

“We still have a lot to play for, that’s the thing,” Withrow said. “We just have to regroup. That’s what you do when you get beat. You regroup and you get back after it.”

The margin stayed within one score until late in the second quarter. Beebe’s halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick, who finished the game with nine carries for 130 yards, got 100 of them on the last carry of the first half and his first carry of the second.

Wyrick took a handoff from up-back Reese Anders on a fake punt, misdirection play 43 yards for a touchdown with 24 seconds left until halftime, to send the Badgers into intermission with a 27-13 lead.

On the third play of the second half, Wyrick went 53 yards on the dive play for another score that put the visiting team up 21 and had the Bears on the brink of a blowout.

But Sylvan Hills stormed back with 18 unanswered points, missing PATs after each touchdown.

The first came when tailback Marlon Clemmons went 45 yards around the right end for a touchdown with 6:07 left in the third quarter.

Sylvan Hills then covered the ensuing kickoff, even though it wasn’t an on-side kick. Smith let the ball bounce in front of him and didn’t get on it, allowing Brandon Bracely to cover it at the Badger 27. The Bears didn’t go far on three plays, but quarterback Trajan Doss kept on the option read on fourth and 6 and went 23 yards for the score to make it 34-25.

Beebe came close to putting it away on the next drive, but what almost became a game-clincher turned into a huge play for Sylvan Hills. Beebe quarterback Aaron Nunez hit Clayton Meurer over the top of the Bears’ defense on Beebe’s only pass of the game. It was good for 36 yards, but DeAngelo Bell caught Meurer from behind and knocked the ball loose.

It rolled into the end zone and was covered by Sylvan Hills for a touchback. The Bears then went 80 yards in nine plays with Clemmons getting the last 38 on second and 20. A two-point conversion failed, leaving the Badgers clinging to a three-point lead with 17 tics left in the third.

But Beebe’s grinding offense had done its job, and the Bears couldn’t get a defensive stop the entire fourth quarter. Sylvan Hills had the ball for just 1:52 of the fourth quarter. The Badgers went 53 yards in eight plays on their first possession for a 41-31 lead. The Bears scored quickly, keeping hope alive when Doss scrambled out of trouble on fourth and 14 to hit Cameron Dews for a 36-yard gain to the 9-yard line. Clemmons scored two plays later with 6:37 left on the clock, but the Bears never got it back.

“That’s what we do,” Shannon said of his offense keeping the ball away from the Bears late. “We want to wear you down and keep that ball away from those guys. It’s nice when everything goes according to plan.”

The first three possessions of the game ended in turnovers, with two Sylvan Hills interceptions sandwiching a Beebe fumble. The Badgers finally kept hold of the ball on their second possession and went 54 yards in 10 plays for the game’s first score with 53 seconds left in the first quarter. Smith carried it seven times on the drive, including a 2-yard run on fourth and goal at the 3-yard line, and the 1-yard touchdown plunge immediately after. The extra point try by Tyler Jones was no good, leaving it 6-0.

That started a streak of five-straight touchdown drives by the two teams.

Sylvan Hills answered with a 55-yard drive that included a 28-yard run by Doss with 13 more tacked on at the end for a personal foul against Beebe. It was the second of three personal fouls against the Badgers in the half.

Clemmons got the last 4 yards on third and 1. Zac Brown’s extra point was blocked to leave the game tied with 10:01 left in the first half.

Yards weren’t as easy to come by for Beebe on the next drive, but Meurer took a reverse handoff 40 yards for a first down at the Sylvan Hills 3-yard line on the drive’s fifth play. Smith got the rest on first and goal. The extra point was good, making it 13-6 Beebe.

Sylvan Hills started on its own 35, and Clemmons went 49 yards on the first play to the Badger 16. Two plays later on second and goal from the 7, Clemmons shook two tackles in the backfield, spinning and dancing his way into the end zone to tie the game with 5:11 left in the half.

The Badgers went up by seven when a 14-yard run by Smith capped a 62-yard, seven-play drive.

Clemmons led all rushers with 239 yards and five touchdowns on just 16 carries. The Bears had 405 total yards to 494 for the Badgers.

Beebe will close the season next Thursday at home against North Pulaski. The Bears will play at Pulaski Academy on Friday.