Friday, November 28, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Wynne puts an end to Beebe’s run

Leader sports editor

WYNNE – The underdog Beebe Badgers made one great run into the semifinals of the Class 5A football playoffs, but the run came to an end on Friday. The Badgers gave heavily favored Wynne all it could handle, but the Yellowjackets prevailed 35-28 to advance to the state championship game next Saturday against Pulaski Academy.

It came down to a fourth and 11 play for the Badgers with less than a minute remaining. The primary receiver was covered. Quarterback Aaron Nunez was forced to scramble and heave a prayer for Clayton Meurer. The pass was intercepted by Wynne’s Jalen Young at the 14-yard line, sealing the victory for the home team.

Beebe had more total yards and dominated time of possession, but the Yellowjackets got one more defensive stop than did the Badgers, and that made the difference.

“My kids played their hearts out and I’m proud of them for that,” said Beebe coach John Shannon.

Beebe had lost 7 yards on third and 4 from the Wynne 23-yard line, putting the Badgers into the passing situation.

“I called that reverse and they were waiting for something like that,” Shannon said. “I figured they were but we were running out of time. I didn’t think we had enough time to keep pounding it and thought we had to try something. We gambled and we lost. That’s how it goes sometimes.”

Beebe took over its final possession with 8:10 remaining after the Yellowjackets scored on a 4-yard run by quarterback Ross Trail for the lead. But the Badgers had already had two scoring drives that took longer than that. After converting two fourth downs, Beebe was still on its down side of the field with 3:30 left in the game. A halfback counter got Jo’Vaughn Wyrick to the Wynne 29 two players later, and two more plays made it third and 4 at the 23. But the next play was another counter that preceded the interception.

Beebe entered the game as big underdogs, but Wynne coach Chris Hill got just about what he expected.

“I knew it was going to be a tough game because that offense is hard to stop,” Hills said. “I told the guys at halftime we were going to have to score every time we got it in the second half. We only got it twice, but we scored both times and that did it for us.”

The Badgers got on the board first, taking the opening drive 64 yards in 10 plays, facing just one third down along the way. Fullback Trip Smith punched it in from 3 yards out with 7:21 left in the first quarter. Tyler Jones’ extra point gave the Badgers a 7-0 lead.

Wynne didn’t take long to answer. On third and 8, Trail hit Devonte Pounds on a post pattern down the right seam for 58 yards and the score.

Beebe also answered quickly, with Wyrick going 69 yards on the fourth play of the drive for a 14-7 Beebe lead with 3:39 left in the quarter.

Wynne went three and out with three-straight incomplete passes, but the Badgers weren’t able to get a cushion. The Yellowjacket defense stopped Beebe on fourth and 2 on its own 32-yard line, and took over from there. On third and 6, Trail hit Zach Morris on a wide receiver screen that went 28 yards for the score with 11:50 remaining in the first half.

Wynne’s defense forced a Badger three and out, and the offense quickly gave the home team its first lead of the game. Pounds took another pass along the seam, this time for 71 yards and another touchdown with 9:40 left in the half.

The Badgers faced a lot of speed in the 5A Central, but not like it saw on Friday.

“We didn’t see anything like that,” Shannon said. “They had those guys going down the field out-running Wyrick and Meurer. If you’re outrunning those two you’re faster than anyone we have.”

Beebe’s offense was on the verge of stalling altogether, but a couple of key conversions on its final drive of the half kept the game-tying drive going.

On the second set of downs, Wyrick picked up 5 hard-fought yards on third and four, but the Badgers battled from behind the chains almost the entire drive. Wyrick picked up 6 yards on third and 7, and Nunez kept for 4 yards on fourth down to the Wynne 43. Smith then went for 7 and 18 yards to set up first and goal at the 9, but a Badger lineman jumped to put the team 14 yards from the goal line. Wyrick got those five back on first down and Nunez went for 1 yard on a keeper. Wyrick then got 7 yards on third and 8 to set up fourth and goal at the 1. Smith got it off tackle and Jones tied the game at 21 with 43 seconds left in the half.

Beebe, 8-5, had the ball for 37:24 of the game while Wynne, 12-1, had it just 11:36. Beebe totaled 355 yards and Wynne 315.

Wyrick led all rushers with 168 yards on 20 carries while Smith added 137 yards on 34 carries.