Monday, August 31, 2015

SPORTS >> Beebe overcomes bad start

Leader sports editor

What started out as a nightmare turned into a pretty good performance in the Beebe football team’s benefit scrimmage game Tuesday at Harding Academy. The preseason practice game was a microcosm of the whole 2014 season for the Badgers, disastrous early due mostly to turnovers, before turning things around and dominating later on.

The two teams traded 12-play possessions, where each team gets 12 plays regardless of the outcome of a play or series during that time. Drives started at the 30-yard line, and Beebe took possession first, and it went south right away. Beebe fumbled the snap on the very first play but was able to cover. Fullback Trip Smith picked up nine yards on second down.

He then fumbled on second down, but the Badgers covered it 7 yards downfield for a first down. Beebe fumbled the snap again on the next play and the Wildcats covered it, forcing the Badgers to reset at the 30-yard line.

Smith then broke loose off tackle for a 70-yard touchdown run, and added the two-point conversion.

Starting again from the 30, two plays gained 11 yards for a first down, but the eighth play was the fourth fumble. This time the Wildcats scooped it up and scored. The next play was a mix up that resulted in a busted play and a 1-yard gain by Justin Burlison. Smith got 4 yards on the next play. On third and 7, the 11th play of the possession was another fumble return for a touchdown by the home team.

The final play of the possession was positive for the Badgers, as Smith picked up 14 yards up the middle.

“It looked like we never practiced a day in our life,” said Beebe coach John Shannon about the first possession. “You can’t spot teams 21 points and expect to win a lot of ball games. The second 12 (plays) I thought we looked a whole lot better. We scrimmaged four times, went to a bunch of team camps and I don’t remember one fumble. Then we come out here and fumble what, four times on the first eight plays? We feel like we can be pretty good, but if we turn the ball over like that we won’t beat anybody.”

Smith’s fumble down field was the result of a defender knocking the ball loose. Two fumbles were on the center exchange, and two came on the dive play.

“Some of it, I think, was just Burlison, being his first time to start at quarterback, was a little nervous,” Shannon said. “He wasn’t getting down the line. He was hesitating. They were blasting their tackles, and the halfbacks are taught when the tackles blast, to veer out. Burlison was stopping short and wasn’t getting out there and we were reaching to make those handoffs.

“I think we got the snap issue fixed and he did a lot better job on the second possession, and I thought we looked really good from that point on.

“Plus, you know, I don’t want to make excuses for him, but this is the first time he’s played in a week. He’s been out of practice with bronchitis. So that might’ve been part of it.”

Harding Academy scored on its first possession despite very little momentum. Two big fourth-down plays were the key to the drive. On fourth and 4 on its first set of downs, HA completed a 45-yard pass down the right sideline to the Beebe 21.

The next three plays gained just 1 yard, but the Wildcats connected for a 16-yard strike on fourth down to set up first and goal at the 4. Beebe then jumped off sides twice to move the ball to the 1, where HA scored on the next play.

That was about all the success the Wildcats would enjoy offensively the rest of the night.

Beebe’s second team offense overcame two 5-yard penalties to march down to the HA 24 before losing a fumble on the next-to-last play. The Badgers’ second-team defense dominated. HA converted just one first down on its last play of the possession.

Beebe’s first team offense started out much better on its second possession. Halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick scampered 70 yards untouched for a quick score. Two more plays resulted in a first down, but the next two lost 10 yards. On third and 20, Smith went 50 yards up the middle to the HA 20-yard line. Wyrick finished that off on the next play for another score.

After resetting, Wyrick caught a rollout pass for a 20-yard gain and Smith finished the possession with a 6-yard run.

HA’s first offense managed three first downs, but could not score on its second possession. Beebe’s second offense scored on a 45-yard run by Bo Smith.

Beebe opens the regular season in just three days. The Badgers will take on Greenbrier at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at War Memorial Stadium.