Tuesday, September 29, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Key injuries slow ’Rabs’ momentum

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke wasn’t at full strength entering Friday’s 4A-2 Conference opener at Heber Springs, and the injuries only got worse against the Panthers, which helped the hosts escape with a 20-19 win over the Jackrabbits.

The Jackrabbits (2-2, 0-1) played Friday’s game without big-play threat Justin Meadows, who suffered a shoulder injury in the team’s week-three loss to McClellan, and against the Panthers (2-2, 1-0), Lonoke lost starting quarterback Savonte Rountree and receiver/running back Logan Dozier to injuries.

In all, a total of five starters didn’t play Friday’s game.

“We had starters at five positions that were out,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “The injury bug definitely hit us Friday night. That hurt us.”

Rountree was injured on the Jackrabbits’ first offensive series, and Dozier took over at quarterback. Heber Springs scored the first and only touchdown of the first quarter and made the PAT that followed to take a 7-0 lead.

Lonoke answered the touchdown early in the second quarter when Dozier threw a 15-yard TD pass to Jawaun Bryant. Casey Martin kicked the extra point to tie the score at 7-7. Dozier was injured before halftime, and Will Miller took the snaps for the rest of the game. The score was 7-7 at the half.

Heber Springs was the first to find the end zone in the second half. That score came on a 15-yard run by Edgar Torres, and the extra point put the Panthers up 14-7. Lonoke’s offense answered late in the third quarter on a 3-yard TD run by running back Josh Coleman.

The Jackrabbits went for the two-point conversion, but the play was shut down by the Panthers’defense. The score brought Lonoke within 14-13 of Heber’s lead.

Lonoke took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 19-yard TD pass from Miller to Bryant. Martin ran for 53 yards on the drive to help set up the score. The two-point conversion once again was no good, leaving the score 19-14 Jackrabbits.

Heber Springs responded with a 71-yard drive that was capped with a 4-yard run by Torres. The two-point try was no good, setting the final score.

Lonoke tried to rally on its final offensive possession, but turned the ball over on an interception. Heber Springs then ran out the clock to seal the win. In spite of all the injuries, the Rabbits still gave themselves a chance to win the game, and Bost was pleased with the effort his team played with throughout the game.

“Everybody played hard,” Bost said. “We were pleased with the effort that they gave.”

Martin led the Jackrabbits with 100 yards on 11 carries. Coleman had 20 carries for 69 yards. Miller was 2 for 3 passing with one touchdown and one interception. Bryant had three catches for 44 yards and two touchdowns.

Lonoke will look for its first conference win of the season this Friday against Newport. That game will also be Lonoke’s homecoming, and will be their last home game till week eight.

The Greyhounds were the 4A-2 Conference champs a season ago, but enter Friday’s game with a 0-4 record. They lost their league opener, 25-14, at home to Helena-West Helena Central last week.

Even though the Hounds enter Friday’s game without a win on their 2015 resume, Bost said there’s no reason to take them lightly.

“They’ve played some 5A teams in Nettleton and Sylvan Hills,” Bost said of Newport. “They played up in classification in nonconference, and played a tough Helena team that has I think eight starters back on offense. So they’ve played some good competition.”

The Greyhounds lost some key starters from last year’s conference championship team, including a three-year starter at quarterback. They do have their leading rusher back for his senior season in Carl Turner.

Turner is a four-year starting tailback for the Greyhounds and has been an All-State selection in two of the last three seasons.

“They have Carl Turner back for a fourth year,” Bost said. “He’s been All-State two out of three years. He’s a heck of a running back. That’s a guy that you’ve got to stop, because the offense definitely goes through him.”

Bost said the Greyhounds have gone to more of a power run game this season in order to feature Turner more. Newport has traditionally been a Spread team, and will still line up in that formation periodically. But the offense is more run oriented this year in order to get the ball in Turner’s hands.

“They’re going to get the ball to him, so they’re more in a power-run formation this year,” Bost said. “In the past, they’ve been Spread, but they had a three-year starter at quarterback last year and some starting receivers and they did lose all those.

“They start off in a power formation. They want to run it, but from what we’ve seen on film, if you stop them there, then they’ll jump in the Spread.”

It does help Lonoke that Newport’s defense has surrendered an average of 34 points per game this season, and if the Jackrabbits can get healthy on offense by Friday night, they should be able score some points on that defense.

Kickoff for Friday’s homecoming game at James B. Abraham Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.