NLR’s Speed Concerns Escalante
November 20, 2009
ROGERS Rogers Heritage coach Perry Escalante is quite impressed with North Little Rock on both sides of the football, but one characteristic stands out more than any other.
“North Little Rock has great speed,” Escalante said. “North Little Rock is going to be quite the challenge.”
And that challenge comes today when the War Eagles travel to North Little Rock for a Class 7A quarterfinal game in North Little Rock Stadium. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
North Little Rock (8-2) finished tied for the 7A-Central title with Cabot with a 6-1 record, but the Charging Wildcats are the No. 2 seed after losing 17-6 to the Panthers. North Little Rock hasn’t won an outright Central title since 1972, and the Charging Wildcats are 1-8 against the 7A-West in the postseason.
With the No. 2 seed, North Little Rock had a bye last week and thus had two weeks to prepare for tonight’s game.
“Is it a good thing (bye), I’ll tell you after the game,” North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said. “It did give us some time to heal some minor injuries.”
North Little Rock is riding a four-game winning streak and the Rockets are averaging 31 points a game over that span behind an explosive offense. Running back Tim Johnson (5-6, 155) has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and receiver Davonta Rich is a big-play threat. Johnson is also North Little Rock’s top special teams returner with more than 1,000 yards.
“Those guys can go,” Escalante said. “If they are going to throw it down field, they are going to go to No. 1 (Rich). They run real well on defense, too. They are aggressive on defense.”
Bolding said Johnson is one of the best all-around running backs he has coached.
“(Johnson) is not real big, but he is fast,” Bolding said. “He changes direction as good as anybody that I have coached. He is a real powerful kid for 155. He has a lot of explosiveness.”
Escalante said the success of the North Little Rock running attack starts up front on the offensive line.
“They are big, they have two or three guys that are over 300 pounds and a couple of them are athletic,” Escalante said.
Heritage will counter with an equally explosive attack. War Eagles quarterback Reed Brown is 193 for 316 passing for 2,517 yards and 29 touchdowns. He has thrown just eight interceptions. Receivers Grant Driver and Travis Entwisle have 59 catches each for 965 and 755 yards, respectively.
Heritage has also been able to move the ball on the ground as running back Zac Stewart has rushed for 1,234 yards and 10 touchdowns. Stewart has lost just one fumble on 199 carries.
“We just have to continue to keep doing what we do,” Escalante said.
Also at stake tonight for North Little Rock is the school’s first nine-win season since 1997. The Charging Wildcats’ bid for a 10th victory that year was stopped by Rogers High, which posted a 24-14 win in the quarterfinals.
“I try not to get caught up in that,” Bolding said. “We just have to play our brand of football. We don’t want to beat ourselves. We have really focused on the little things.”
But Bolding did say North Little Rock likes playing at home.
“We play awfully well at home,” Bolding said.