Tuesday, September 20, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Titans try to bounce back at Searcy

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans hit the road for their first conference game of the season on Friday. The Titans open 6A-East play against the 2-1 Searcy Lions, who are coming off their first loss of the season.

The winner of all three of Searcy’s games has scored 41 points. The Lions opened the season with a 41-33 win over Valley View. In week two they beat Batesville 41-35, and then lost 41-13 to Morrilton last week.

Searcy led that game 13-7 in the second quarter, but gave up 34 unanswered until lightning stopped the game early in the fourth.

While the Searcy defense has given up a lot of points this year, Jacksonville’s offense has struggled. For the second-straight game, the Titans (1-2) have scored just one touchdown. They scored four times in a season-opening win against Mills, but three were on big plays.

Of Jacksonville’s six touchdowns this season, five have been on plays of 50 yards or more. It hasn’t been able to sustain drives and score. There were a few good drives in week two against Catholic, but penalties and/or turnovers halted them when they reached the red zone. Jacksonville only trailed 14-7 late in the third quarter of that game, but Catholic’s size and depth played a big role in the fourth quarter.

Last week, Jacksonville only managed 87 yards of offense against a blitz-happy Sylvan Hills defense.

Jacksonville will have to work out some of the problems that gave Sylvan Hills’ blitz happy defense such easy access to the backfield. The Bears may have drawn the template that everyone else will try to use unless it gets better.

Searcy is not as talented as Sylvan Hills, but it is similar to Catholic. Jacksonville has a chance to be competitive and pull out a win if it can eliminate the mistakes that cost it so dearly at War Memorial.


Beebe has to find a way off the roller coaster it’s been on in its three nonconference games. 5A-Central play begins at home this week against Little Rock Christian Academy.

Every game the Badgers have played this year have been blowouts. Two big losses have sandwiched a 49-7 win over Lonoke.

Last week, the Badgers were buried 42-0 at halftime at Wynne, and lost 49-6. In week one, they fell behind by 30 to Greenbrier before losing 54-33.

The key difference in each of those games was turnovers. Beebe turned it over frequently in the two losses, and not at all in the win.

Little Rock Christian is 0-3 after going 13-1 last year, its only loss in the state semifinals. All three losses, however, have been against strong competition and very close. The Warriors fell 55-58 to Warren, 44-42 to Shiloh Christian and 28-21 to Harrison.

The Badgers aren’t as talented or experienced as Wynne, and would have had trouble with the Yellowjackets in any situation. But they would’ve been much more competitive with Greenbrier without the turnovers. They’re also good enough to beat the Warriors this week if they don’t turn it over. If they do cough it up five times like they did at Greenbrier, they could lose in a similar manner.


Lonoke opens play in the 4A-2 Conference at home against Heber Springs. The Jackrabbits didn’t have much depth when the season started, and injuries have made that even worse.

They lost their starting quarterback before the season began, then lost the backup before the loss to Beebe. A starting lineman went down during the Beebe game and another starter was lost at Newport. Lonoke has struggled through two lop-sided losses since beating Carlisle to open the year. Heber Springs is also searching for its first victory this week, but like LRCA, all its losses have been close.

The Panthers opened with an upset loss at Clinton, 28-20. In week two, they lost a shootout with Greenbrier 52-41, and then fell 46-32 to Harding Academy.

The 4A-2 has been wildly unpredictable in recent years. Two years ago, a winless, last place team knocked off the league leader in week nine and destroyed its championship hopes. So anything can happen between Lonoke and Heber Springs.


Injuries have gotten to Carlisle this year as well, as have opposing offenses. The Bison appeared to be turning the corner when it whipped Class 4A DeWitt in the second game of the year, but last week’s 50-32 loss to Augusta was a stunner. Now the Bison have to face rival Des Arc, which has routed McCrory and Brinkley in its last two games.

These two teams played an outstanding smash mouth game last year that Des Arc won 28-24. The Eagles went on to win 10-straight games before losing in the third round of the playoffs, and never scored fewer than 36 in the process.

Carlisle will have to find that kind of defense again in order to pull out a road victory on Friday.