Mistakes Doom Heritage
November 22, 2009
After shaking hands with the North Little Rock coaches following a heart-breaking 49-45 loss Friday night, Rogers Heritage coach Perry Escalante’s look of disappointment was clear as day.
Escalante wasn’t disappointed in his team’s effort, but he was still shaken.
Two costly fumbles by the kick return team, a coverage breakdown by the kickoff team and five quarterback sacks frustrated the second-year coach. The fumbles erased an early 21-0 Heritage lead, and the sacks and kickoff return helped North Little Rock break two second-half ties.
North Little Rock scored 14 points off the two fumbles, and the five sacks resulted in a net loss of 38 yards. Heritage finished with just 51 yards rushing on 22 carries.
If the War Eagles had eliminated just one of their miscues, Escalante said Heritage would be playing in the Class 7A semifinals instead of looking forward to next season.
But the season is over, and that is the most disappointing thing for Escalante.
“You can say what you want, but I don’t think the best team won tonight,” Escalante said Friday night. “We made too many mistakes. Credit to them, they capitalized on every one of them. But that is football.
“The two fumbles and the kickoff return ... difference in the game. It was just one of those games where things pile up on you.”
Despite the cool temperatures, North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding was drenched in sweat when the game ended. The Charging Wildcats finished with 461 yards of total offense and outscored Heritage 49-24 the final three quarters.
“I tell you what, they have a good football team. And if we had been at Heritage, it might have been a little different,” Bolding said. “Coach Escalante has done a terrific job over there. We were able to get to their quarterback a little. It was just a battle. I’m worn out.”
With Reed Brown passing for almost 400 yards and Grant Driver catching 12 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns, Heritage battled back form a 14-point halftime deficit to tie the game twice. The War Eagles tied it at 35-35, and again at 42-42 with 10 minutes, 43 seconds left in the game.
But 15 seconds later, North Little Rock’s Deon Rhodes was in the end zone after a 99-yard kickoff return that put the Charging Wildcats in front 49-42.
Heritage tacked on a late field goal. But North Little Rock was able to run out the clock and reserve a home date in the semifinals against Fort Smith Southside, a 27-24 winner at Bentonville on Friday.
“It was hard to get the momentum back from them,” Escalante said. “We battled back, but that was not enough. You can’t play like that and win, just can’t do it.”