Tuesday, August 22, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Good effort for all at Vilonia

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville and Lonoke convened with Vilonia at Phillip Weaver Stadium on Monday for a three-team preseason jamboree that saw a mixed bag for all three squads.

Each team played one quarter of live action against each of the other two teams, and the results for varsity play were split.

Lonoke opened by outscoring Vilonia 7-0, then got beat by Jacksonville 6-0. The Eagles then came back out and beat Jacksonville 13-0.

Lonoke’s touchdown came on its first drive against Vilonia, and it was nearly flawless.

Junior receiver Braidon Bryant made a 9-yard reception on the first play. Senior running back Xavier Hodge barreled forward for 20 yards on four carries. Bryant then took a swing pass and weaved his way through a series of defenders before racing down the west sideline for the score.

The next three possessions were all three-and-out, two by Vilonia and one by Lonoke. The Jackrabbits’ third possession featured a 14-yard scramble by quarterback Daniel Seigrist, and another big play by Bryant.

This time the swing pass went to the left side, but nothing was there. Bryant reversed directions and again got loose down the right sideline to the Vilonia 13-yard line. On the next play, however, a high shotgun snap lost 20 yards and the Jackrabbits ended up turning it over on downs as time expired.

“We had a backup center in there and those things are going to happen,” Lonoke coach Taggart Moore said. “I was really pleased with how well Daniel ran the offense. He was nearly flawless. He did a great job of moving around in the pocket and finding receivers.

“Bryant is a junior, but he was hurt all of last season, so really he’s like a sophomore. He’s got a chance to be maybe the best player in our conference if he gets his mind right and gets focused. And he’s getting there. He’s a great athlete.”

Jacksonville went three and out on its first possession against the Jackrabbits, but the defense forced the same from Lonoke. On the Titans’ second possession, quarterback Harderrious Martin kept on the read option and raced 65 yards for a touchdown.

Lonoke started the next drive on its own 20, and picked up 57 yards in two plays. Ethan Mulligan made a 23-yard reception and Hodge ran 34 yards to the Jacksonville 23. But Jacksonville held the Jackrabbits to just one more yard and took over on downs.

Jacksonville then put together its best drive of the game, taking seven plays to get to the Lonoke-5-yard line, but a penalty moved the Titans backwards and they turned it over on downs with 1:48 left.

Lonoke then drove from its own 10-yard line to the midfield, but Martin picked off a Siegrist pass deep downfield on the last play.

“We tried to go deep and score on that last play, but Daniel really doesn’t have the arm strength for that,” Moore said. “He did what he’s supposed to do, and he did it well. I’m really encouraged by how well he played.”

Vilonia’s Veer offense took its toll on the Titans, who had not prepared to face an option offense. Jacksonville did a good job of stuffing the fullback and picking up the pitch man on the option, but Vilonia quarterback Jordan Britton ran loose and the halfback dive broke a few big plays against the Jacksonville defense.

“You need a week to prepare for offenses like that,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “I thought we did a pretty good job. We’re not going to see an offense like that all year, and I thought we did really well against the other offense that’s more similar to everything we’re going to see throughout the season. The defense played well.”

Britton had one run of 46 yards and another of 14 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive against Jacksonville. The Titans then picked up three first downs and moved the ball from their own 20 to the Vilonia 5, but another false-start penalty moved them backwards, and Vilonia stuffed the run for a 4-yard loss on the next play. Jacksonville managed just two more yards on the next two plays, and an incomplete pass on fourth and goal from the 10 ended the drive.

Vilonia then marched 90 yards in 13 plays; with Britton breaking loose on the option keep for the last 20 yards and the final score of the game.