Saturday, September 02, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers’ versatility leads to comeback

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers mixed up their offense an unusual amount, and the results were worth it in the home opener Friday. The Badgers came back from an 18-7 halftime deficit to beat Greenbrier 26-18 at A.S. Bro Irwin Stadium.

The Beebe coaches didn’t change much about the defensive strategy at halftime, even though Greenbrier scored three times in final 3:48 of the first half to take the two-score lead into intermission. Head coach John Shannon just thought his players answered the call in the second half.

“The defense was just lights out the whole second half,” said Shannon. “They kept giving us opportunities, and we finally hit a couple big ones. We just kind of wore them down in the second half.”

Neither team scored in the first quarter, but the Badgers didn’t wait long in the second to get on the board. On the first play of the second period, junior halfback Taylor Boyce danced into the end zone from 6 yards out, and Daniel Martinez added the extra point for a 7-0 Beebe lead with 11:55 left in the first half. That drive was mostly out of the Spread formation.

Greenbrier answered with a 9-yard run by Spencer Sutterfield to make it 7-6 with 3:48 left until halftime. The Panthers then covered an onside kick, and immediately hit a 45-yard touchdown pass just nine seconds after the first score. Another missed extra point left the Panthers with a 12-7 lead.

Beebe wasn’t able to get a first down, and a short punt set Greenbrier up in good field position. With 21 seconds left until halftime, the Panthers scored again for the 11-point lead.

Beebe came out in the Dead-T to start the third quarter and drove down the field. Quarterback Mason Walker capped the drive with a 19-yard option keep for the score. The extra point was blocked, leaving the Badgers trailing 18-13 with 9:16 left in the third quarter.

The two teams traded possessions the rest of the third, but the fourth belonged to the Badgers. With 9:16 left in the game and Beebe back in the Spread formation, fullback Kahlil Anthony went off tackle for 68 yards untouched for the go-ahead touchdown.

The PAT failed again, leaving Beebe clinging to a one-point lead.

Greenbrier put together a good drive, but was stopped on downs near midfield. Anthony then broke another long run, this time for 35 yards and the score with 4:14 left in the game. The extra point was good, giving the Badgers the 26-18 lead.

“It was just an outstanding game for our defense,” Shannon said. “Offense wasn’t great, but it produced when it had to produce. They stopped us near the goal line early. We got down there in the T and they stuffed us. So next time we got down there we went to the Spread. That gave us some running lanes, and we were able to get it in. We jumped in and out of the Spread probably more than we ever have tonight.”

Greenbrier finished with 330 total yards of offense to Beebe’s 333. The Panthers had 99 rushing and 231 passing. All of Beebe’s yards came on the ground. Anthony led all players with 20 carries for 187 yards and two touchdowns.

The Badgers will travel to longtime rival Lonoke next week. The Jackrabbits beat Carlisle 42-6 Friday after invoking the mercy rule with a 35-0 halftime score.