Saturday, November 14, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers ousted by Greenbrier

Leader sports editor

GREENBRIER – Beebe played decent defense most of the game, but fourth down was a killer for the Badgers. The Greenbrier Panthers scored three touchdowns of at least 21 yards on fourth down en route to a 35-21 victory over Beebe in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs Friday.

Fumbles, passing game mishaps and penalties helped end the Badgers’ season as well. Beebe fumbled four times, lost two of them and threw one interception. The Badgers also had two certain touchdown completions fail to materialize. In the first quarter, every Panther bit on the run and left Reece Anders running all alone down the field, but quarterback Bo Smith’s pass fell 5 yards short of the target.

Later in the fourth quarter with Beebe trailing 35-21, the same play worked just as well again. This time Smith’s pass was right on target, but flew right through Anders’ hands.

The first touchdown of the game came on fourth and 11 from the Beebe 26-yard line after Beebe’s first failed pass attempt. Greenbrier quarterback Harold Ross scrambled away from pressure and found receiver Carter Burcham open in the front corner of the end zone with 5:27 left in the first quarter.

Beebe (5-5) didn’t take long to answer. Fullback Trip Smith ran up the middle 65 yards on the first play of the Badgers’ next drive to tie the game with 5:09 on the clock.

Greenbrier (7-4) converted a fourth and 5, a third and 6 and a third 9 on its next drive. The Panthers finally scored on the first play of the second quarter on another Ross to Burcham pass, this time from 8 yards out on second and goal. The extra point made it 14-7 with 11:53 left in the first half.

Trip Smith fumbled it away on the third play of the ensuing possession, but Beebe’s defense came up with a stop. Cornerback Connor Patrom intercepted a third and 12 pass and returned it 62 yards to the Greenbrier 8-yard line, but most of the return was called back for an illegal block.

The Badgers started at their own 43, and needed just seven plays to tie the game. Bo Smith got 26 of it on two carries. His first carry of the game went 11 yards on third and 1 to the Greenbrier 23. Three plays later, facing fourth and 2, Bo Smith kept up the middle, broke two tackles and dragged a defender the last 4 yards into the end zone with 5:52 left in the half.

This time it was the Panthers’ turn to strike fast. Ross threw a quick swing pass to wideout Carter Coats near the Beebe sideline. Tailback Shawn Howard flew in front of Coats and cleared out two would-be tacklers, and Coats did the rest, going 56 yards down the sideline for the score with 5:33 left in the first half.

Beebe had another nice drive going and was about to score to end the half when Bo Smith fumbled a handoff exchange in the red zone.

Greenbrier got the ball at its own 44 to start the second half and got two first downs in four plays to the Beebe 29. The Badger defense forced a fourth and 2, and that’s when Ross hit Brandon Thomas for a 21-yard touchdown with 8:47 left in the third quarter. The extra point was no good, leaving the score 27-14.

Beebe used up almost six minutes of clock on a 12-play scoring drive that started on the Badger 32-yard line. Trip Smith got nine of those carries, including the last one for 1 yard and the score.

Beebe tried an onside kick and Greenbrier started on its own 48. After one first down, Beebe forced fourth and 8, and again Ross scrambled and found Thomas for a 36-yard scoring strike with 1:50 left in the third quarter. The Beebe sideline got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as the Panthers set up for the extra point. That moved the ball to the 1-yard line, and prompted Greenbrier to go for two, which it converted to set the final margin.

Anders’ dropped pass came on the ensuing possession, but the Beebe defense forced a punt that rolled to a stop less than a foot from the goal line. Beebe drove out to its own 46, but a loss of 5 yards on third and 1 resulted in fourth and 5 from the 40. Bo Smith kept on the option on fourth down and picked up 25 yards, but it was called back for an illegal shift. The Badgers tried to throw down field on fourth and 11 but the pass was batted away by Trystan Spencer, who also covered both of Beebe’s lost fumbles.

The Beebe defense held again and the Badgers got one more possession, starting on their own 26 with 1:37 remaining. But it started with an illegal procedure penalty. Patrom picked up 17 yards on a reverse on first and 15, and a late hit added 15 more yards to the end of the run. With time running down, Beebe needed to score quickly, and tried a throwback pass that was picked off by Howard.

Beebe was out of timeouts and Greenbrier lined up in victory formation for the final three snaps.

Beebe piled up 320 yards of offense, all on the ground. Greenbrier had 375 with 309 of it coming through the air. Ross completed 23 of 35 pass attempts for 309 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.

Trip Smith became the first Badger ever to rush for 5,000 yards in a career. He needed 84 yards to reach that milestone, and carried 32 times for 192 yards, giving him a school record 5,108 career rushing yards.

Greenbrier moves on to face Batesville in the second round of the playoffs.