Saturday, September 05, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils beaten at Maumelle

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Red Devils had a rough opener at Maumelle on Friday, as the Hornets scored early and often en route to a dominant 59-21 nonconference win over the Red Devils.

Maumelle did not punt the ball the entire game, and didn’t have to. The Hornets scored on their first two possessions to take an early 14-0 lead. The first TD was on the first possession of the game.

It was a five-play drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run up the middle by senior Jacob Acklin. Maumelle (1-0) lined up in the swinging gate for the 2-point try, and converted on a run play to the right side of the field to lead 8-0 at the 10:47 mark of the first quarter.

Jacksonville (0-1) went three-and-out on its first possession. The Red Devils lined up as if they were going to go for it on fourth down at their own 27-yard line, but shifted into punt formation once the offense realized it wasn’t going to get the Maumelle defense to jump offsides.

Quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham was where he normally lines up in the shotgun when he received the snap to punt, and as a result, it was blocked by Maumelle’s Charles McRae and covered by the Hornets at the Jacksonville 21.

Maumelle scored in eight plays this time, scoring on a 1-yard run by Acklin with 5:45 left in the opening quarter. That put the Hornets up 14-0. Jacksonville did get on the board its second possession, scoring on a 50-yard run up the middle of the field by Shawn Ellis.

The PAT was good, which cut the Hornets’ lead to 14-7 with 3:57 to go in the quarter. Maumelle, though, scored on its next two drives and converted each 2-point try to take a 30-7 lead with 7:40 to go in the opening half.

Jacksonville answered with an eight-play drive that ended with a 1-yard TD run up the gut by sophomore bruiser Danny Smith, and the PAT cut the Hornet lead to 30-14. However, Maumelle answered on its next possession with a three-play drive that went 65 yards and ended with a 19-yard TD run by Gabe Jones.

It was Jones’ second TD of the game, and the successful 2-point try gave the Hornets a 38-14 lead with just under four minutes left in the half, but that ended up being the score at the break.

“It was a tough night,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “We couldn’t stop them in the first half. We couldn’t get rolling offensively. We had some success, we just couldn’t finish drives early, and it kind of snowballed on us. We just never could figure out what we needed to figure out to get our team in the right position.”

Jacksonville did gain some momentum in the second half. The Red Devils received the second-half kickoff. Ellis received it at the Jacksonville 10-yard line and returned it all the way to the Maumelle 26.

The Red Devils got a 9-yard run by Smith on the first play of the drive, and scored three plays later on a 5-yard burst by Ellis. The PAT made it a 38-21 game. The Devil defense forced a turnover on downs on Maumelle’s first possession of the second half, and Jacksonville’s offense put together what looked to be another promising drive.

Starting from their own 34-yard line, the Red Devils marched the ball downfield and into Hornet territory, thanks in large part to a 30-yard run by Smith. However, two incompletions, one of which was a drop, and a negative rush set up fourth down.

A desperation throw on fourth down by Brandon Hickingbotham was intercepted at the Maumelle 11, and on the first play of the ensuing possession, Acklin’s first and only carry of the second half resulted in an 89-yard TD run with 5:01 left in the third quarter.

Acklin also punched in the 2-point try, giving Maumelle a commanding 46-21 lead, and it was all Hornets from there.

“We felt good running the football,” Hickingbotham said of his team’s early success in the second half. “We felt good running, we just couldn’t get it across and finish it. Then on defense, we just had trouble figuring it out and we missed a lot of tackles. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Maumelle’s next score came on what was easily the play of the game, and quite possibly the play of the week. Junior running back Cory Jones received the handoff at the Jacksonville 24-yard line, and in a tremendous effort to make a play out of nothing, he ran every which way possible sideways and backwards before finally breaking loose near the right hashmark.

Jones started to run out of gas as he approached the end zone, and just before he crossed the goal line, Jacksonville’s Terry Brown delivered a legal, devastating hit that sent Jones’ helmet flying off and knocked him out of action for the remainder of the game.

The PAT made it 52-21 with 3:12 left in the third quarter. Maumelle scored again to set the final score and invoke the mercy rule in the process on a 9-yard TD pass by Kobe Pounders with 10:11 left in the game.

The Hornets finished the game with 473 yards of offense, 317 of which came in the first half. Jacksonville finished the night with 328 yards of offense, but had just 93 in the second half.

Brandon Hickingbotham finished the night 7 for 18 passing for 65 yards and one interception. Maumelle used three different quarterbacks Friday. Those three combined to throw for 122 yards and two TDs with one interception.

Acklin led the Hornet backfield with 166 yards rushing and three TDs. For Jacksonville, Smith had 95 yards rushing and one score on 13 carries, while Ellis had 92 yards rushing and two scores on 11 carries.

Jacksonville will look to rebound at home next Friday night against Class 6A Benton in another nonconference game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.