Tuesday, August 25, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits host Bison, Hornets in scrimmage

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits played host to Carlisle and Maumelle in a benefit scrimmage Monday night at James B. Abraham Stadium, and even though it was an exhibition, the atmosphere resembled a Friday night regular season game.

The format for the scrimmage was the three teams played each other for a half, with normal time-keeping rules. Carlisle and Maumelle took the field first, and the 5A Hornets dominated from start to finish en route to a 41-0 win over the 2A Bison.

Lonoke played Maumelle in game two, and that matchup was much more competitive. The Jackrabbits jumped out to a 13-0 lead over the Hornets, but Maumelle came roaring back in the second half and held off a late Lonoke surge to narrowly beat the hosts 22-21.

The Jackrabbits then played old rival Carlisle in the third and final game of the evening. Lonoke played its second-string players for the bulk of the game, but still managed to outpoint Carlisle 15-7.

Offensively, Carlisle managed to move the ball against Maumelle early, but turnovers thwarted promising drives. The Bison defense had no answer for the Hornets’ offense, as the 2A school was simply outmatched by the 5A school’s size and playmakers. Lonoke, though, outplayed the Hornets early, on both sides of the ball.

Maumelle’s first series ended with Lonoke’s Justin Meadows scoring the first six points of that game on a 40-yard interception return. Casey Martin kicked the PAT to give Lonoke a 7-0 cushion.

Meadows struck again on the Rabbits’ first offensive possession in the new Flexbone offense. Lonoke was facing third and 16 at its own 31, but Meadows, who has 4.3 speed, took a right toss from quarterback Savonte Rountree and dashed 69 yards down the visitors’ sideline for his second touchdown of the game.

The PAT was no good, giving Lonoke a 13-0 lead. Maumelle’s next possession ended with a stellar interception by Jackrabbit senior corner Deondray Joyner, but Lonoke turned it over as well on its next possession.

The Hornets then answered with a Dai-Kwon Armond touchdown pass to senior standout receiver Demarian Johnson that was good for 30 yards and was perfectly thrown over Johnson’s shoulder. The PAT made it 13-7 Lonoke, and that was the score at the break.

Maumelle’s first possession of the second half was a lengthy one, but ended with a 20-yard TD pass. The PAT gave the Hornets their first lead at 14-13 with 5:16 to play.

Lonoke senior tailback Josh Coleman got the Rabbits’ next drive off to a promising start with a run the netted close to 20 yards. Lonoke’s next two offensive plays weren’t as promising, though, as the Rabbits were suddenly faced with third and 15.

On the next snap, Rountree threw into tight coverage and connected with Martin, who then broke away from the Hornet secondary for a 67-yard TD strike with 4:09 remaining.

Lonoke went for two, and Rountree plowed in the two-point try, which gave the hosts a 21-14 lead. Maumelle answered, though, with a great drive that ended with running back Jacob Acklin scoring from 16 yards out. He then added the two-point try to give the Hornets the 22-21 lead with 2:51 remaining.

The Rabbits put together another good drive on their final possession and managed to get fairly deep into Maumelle territory. But, Rountree was sacked on third down at the Maumelle 21 with 39 seconds remaining.

Facing fourth and 16, Lonoke coach Doug Bost sent out the field goal unit. The 38-yard field goal kicked by Martin went wide left, and Maumelle took a knee to end the highly competitive scrimmage between the two teams.

“That was some good competition,” said Bost, “a good 5A team for us to get ready to go into Star City. We had a couple of balls thrown that went for big plays. We were running in between the tackles with Coleman, and Savonte looked good. We were able to get outside a couple of times. Overall, I’m pleased.”

Bost did point to fumbles and penalties as something the team needs to correct before the actual season starts next Friday.

“We put five balls on the ground,” Bost said. “We didn’t lose any, but we did put five on the ground, and penalties puts us behind the chains. That’s not what you need on this offense.”

In the Lonoke/Carlisle game, the Jackrabbits opened with their second-string offense after Carlisle failed to score on the game’s first possession. That Jackrabbit offense had little trouble moving the ball downfield via the run game and Lonoke soon scored on a 1-yard TD run by quarterback Will Miller. The two-point try was good, giving Lonoke an 8-0 lead.

The Bison offense, also switching to the Flexbone this year, moved the ball on its next drive, but fumbled it over to the Lonoke defense with 2:14 left in the period. At the end of the quarter, Lonoke maintained its 8-0 lead.

Lonoke’s first-teamers came into the game at the start of the final 12 minutes. That offense moved the ball down field with little trouble, and even had two plays that resulted in touchdowns of over 40 yards. However, penalties negated those scores.

The Jackrabbits still scored, though, on that possession, which came on an 11-yard TD pass from Rountree to Martin with 6:18 remaining. The PAT made it 15-0 Lonoke.

Starting at its own 25, Carlisle had one more opportunity to find the end zone. Quarterback Ty Golleher had several grind-it-out runs that led to first downs on the drive, and with 8.7 tics remaining, Golleher took a quarterback keeper outside his left tackle and into the end zone for the Bison’s first score of the night.

The PAT was good, and that set the final score.

“We’ve got to do a lot of work on tackling,” said Carlisle coach Jack Keith. “Offensively, we were able to move the ball, but we put the ball on the ground too many times. If we take care of that and keep moving the ball we’ll be alright. We’ve just got to do a better job of tackling and controlling the ball.”

Even though the scrimmage didn’t go as well for his team as Keith would’ve liked, he did like the way his offense ended the night with the touchdown at the very end of the exhibition, and said his inexperienced group should really benefit in the long term from that level of competition.

“That was a big confidence boost right there,” Keith said. “Lonoke’s a heck of a ball club. They’ve got a lot of athletes. To be able to drive it down and punch it in is big for us.

“I think we got a lot out of it. There won’t be many teams we see that’s as athletic as Maumelle. Seeing somebody that plays at that level and being able to be on the field with them, it gives you a good look and it’s something we can’t re-create in practice.”