Blue Devils fall in state quarterfinals
Rusellville upends West Memphis 34- 7
WM School District RUSSELLVILLE — The Russellville defensive front is one of, if not the best, in Class 6A and that made it tough on the West Memphis Blue Devils here last Friday night.
West Memphis' normally potent offense couldn't get much going against the big, physical Cyclone defense and it led to a 34-7 Russellville win in a state quarterfinal game.
The loss ends West Memphis' season at 7-5 while Russellville goes on to the semifinals this Friday night against Benton.
As tough as the hosts' front four were on defense, the Blue Devils were almost equally as demanding. It allowed 77 total yards from scrimmage in the first half, yet West Memphis found itself down 24-7 at halftime.
'(The final score) doesn't look like it, but we played defense fairly well all night,' said Blue Devil head coach Billy Elmore.
'You can't make the mistakes we made in the first half, though.'
The Cyclones (10-1) got three gift touchdowns on Blue Devil miscues in the first 24 minutes.
On the second play from scrimmage, Russellville's Ryan Talley picked off a Blue Devil pass and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown.
And then, after the visitors crept to within 10-7 in the second quarter, Russellville speedster Josiah Woodard returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
A third West Memphis mistake led to another Russellville TD. With time winding down in the first half, a high snap to Blue Devil punter Dylan Wigginton gave the Cyclones the ball at the West Memphis 10 with just 22 seconds left before intermission.
Three plays later, Russellville quarterback Cale Fulsom, who came into the game with 31 touchdown passes this season and was held pretty much in check by completing only 12 of 23 passes for 95 yards, connected with Talley for a 10-yard TD pass to make it 24-7 at halftime.
'Those kind of things bury you in a hole,' Elmore added. 'Makes it hard to overcome. Our defense only gave up 13 points all night.'
After a slow start on offense, it looked as though the Blue Devils would seize the momentum before halftime.
Down 10-0, a 29-yard punt return by senior Rayshaad Hall set up West Memphis at the Russellville 28 in the second quarter.
On third and seven from the 9, West Memphis' Devonte Dean saw the ball squirt out of his hands and forward into the end zone, where teammate Jonathan Craig was there to scoop it up for a touchdown with 4:02 left in the half.
Woodard's return on the ensuing kick was aided by him catching the ball already with a full head of steam and a huge hole in the middle of the field.
'That was a back-breaker there,' Elmore stated.
West Memphis outrushed Russellville 72-12 in the first half.
'The one thing West Memphis does that caught our concern this week was their ability to run the football straight ahead,' admitted Russellville head coach Billy Dawson. 'And they have a jitterbug quarterback (Amaurius Stinnett) that really scared us.
Fortunately for us he didn't get to play much tonight.'
Stinnett gave way to Michael Troxler to start the game for the second straight week. Troxler had some impressive throws in the second half, but he was also knocked out of the game, leading to Stinnett taking over for him for three possessions.
Stinnett played at far less than 100 percent, still gimpy from a reinjuring of his right knee in the regular- season finale at Mountain Home. Still, the diminutive junior soldiered on against Russellvillle and was behind center on West Memphis' touchdown drive.
'We'll bounce back,' Elmore added. 'We'll tell some seniors goodbye and then we'll go back to work when Thanksgiving is over and start working with next year's group.'
By Billy Woods