Tuesday, September 13, 2016

SPORT STORY >> Badgers’ progress needs to continue

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers got what coach John Shannon believes was an important win last Friday against Lonoke. This year’s Beebe squad is heavily dependent on young players, and the head Badgers felt like an early win would be a confidence boost for his squad.

That became even more crucial after a disappointing, five-turnover performance in a 21-point loss at Greenbrier in the season opener. So beating Lonoke 49-7 last week was almost urgent.

“It was important confidence-wise,” said Shannon. “They realize they can play high school football. I felt like, when we didn’t turn the ball over, we executed pretty well against Greenbrier. But there’s nothing like getting that win on the record to show you’re moving forward and give you that confidence.”

Up next for Beebe is perennial power Wynne, a former 5A-East stable mate of the Badgers, and a team that has changed offenses since the last time the two have met.

That last meeting was in the 2014 5A state semifinals; an exciting game the Yellowjackets won 35-28 with a late defensive stand. That team featured a strong passing quarterback and ran the Spread. This year, the Yellowjackets have gone to the Flexbone, which is catered more towards Wynne’s usual strength, speed.

It’s more reminiscent of the Diamond T utilized by legendary coach Don Campbell when he helped build WHS into the powerhouse it became in the 90s and early 2000s.

Wynne (2-0) has beaten Marion 42-17 and Maumelle 38-21 in its first two games this season.

“They’re really good,” Shannon said of Wynne. “They’ve switched over to the Flexbone and have a really good fullback. They have good slots that they run the option with, the toss sweep with some speed. But the best thing about them on film, to me, is the offensive line. They get off the ball exceptionally well. They’re low, they’re strong. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us. It’s going take a stellar performance on our part.”

Beebe’s defense is more confident after the second game. After giving up 54 points to Greenbrier, Shannon was particularly glad to see his defense dominate Lonoke, which also runs the Flexbone. The Badgers gave up just two first downs and only 80 total yards of offense.

Shannon doesn’t expect that kind of domination against Wynne, but he was glad to see his defense turn in such a solid performance.

“I thought our inside linebackers showed a lot of progress,” Shannon said. “Luke Oakley is a sophomore that had a really good game at outside linebacker last week. But Wynne is a different monster. They’re a lot bigger than Lonoke and Lonoke had some injuries on offense that hurt them a little bit. They turned it over a few times for us, but I think our defense had something to do with a couple of those turnovers. We’re getting better, but we’re going to have to keep getting better to have a chance in this one.

“We had a good practice and it looks like we’re doing that. Our goal is minimize mistakes on defense, don’t turn it over on offense and give ourselves a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.”