By T. Scott Boatright
JONESBORO — Lincoln Preparatory School got knocked down early and never regained a firm foothold as Homer hammered out a 60-13 win over the Panthers Thursday night at the Jonesboro-Hodge football stadium.
“They gave us that early left hook and that was it,” said Panthers head coach Glen Hall about the contest. “They returned the opening kickoff for a score and had a lead 10 seconds into the game. Then we had a wide open pass that our quarterback short-armed, and Homer intercepted and drove right down for another score.
“Then they held us to a punt and the punter panicked after a bad snap and laid the ball on the ground, and they scored and were up 21-0 not more than five minutes after the opening kickoff. They knocked us off balance right off the bat and we never truly recovered.”
Lincoln Prep now stands at 4-3 overall and 4-4 in District 1-1A.
Hall said he is determined to not let one bad game determine his team’s season.
“I told the kids, we’re still in a good position,” Hall said. “I think we can still end up with a 7-3 or 6-4 record and maybe a top 12 seeding in the playoffs … maybe. If we can get a good first-round game and make some noise and get the team all riled up, then you have some momentum built going into the second round. I think that can happen. We just have to get back to winning in these last three regular-season games.”
The Pelicans focused on two things defensively: not allowing Panthers offensive standout Dmitry Payne to pull off big plays and slowing down the Lincoln Prep rushing attack, starting with quarterback Ta’Rell Simmons.
A week after Simmons accounted for 380 yards of offense (153 rushing and 227 passing) for the Panthers, Homer held him to 13 rushing yards on nine carries while allowing only nine completions on 16 passes for 67 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
“I really thought we would have played better,” Hall said. “We had some good practices and had time to go over some things that would really show up in a positive way in the game. But it didn’t turn out that way.”
“Homer double-and-triple teamed Payne and then focused on stopping Simmons and our run game.”
Payne hauled in three receptions on the night for 34 yards while returning three kickoffs for 188 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown.”
“He still got a kickoff in … he almost broke two,” Hall said of his standout kick return specialist. “They wouldn’t kick to him at first but when they got bold and finally did, he took it back right down their throat.”
Payne also led the Panthers defensively with five tackles and a pass breakup.
Chancey Harper had six catches for 33 yards to lead Lincoln Prep receivers.
Earlier this season after a tough loss at Calvary Baptist, Hall immediately put that game in the past, not even watching video with his team.
He said he will handle things differently this time.
“I’ve thought about that a whole lot,” Hall said. “I think that I need to show them this one. They need to know how we looked. We’ve got a good fan base. We had a good following come out to that game. I think the players need to see that the fans come to see a show. Coach (Eddie Robinson) always said, ‘They’re paying their money, so they want to see a show.’ We’ve got to play hard and put on that kind of show.”
Hall also realizes that his team can’t expect to win after suffering an early technical knockout as they did against an offensive heavyweight team like Homer.
“It took the wind out of our sails,” Hall said about the Pelicans’ fast start. “We started running bad routes and turning the ball over. Our quarterback went down for about a quarter. Braylin (Mayfied) came in to replace him and made some good throws. We dropped a lot of passes. We just have to learn to pick up slack for each other.”
Hall also admitted he has to remind himself that having five basketball players join the team early on during the season is something the team is dealing with.
“All the basketball guys except for Payne and (lineman Imani) Marcel had never played football before,” Hall said. “That’s four talented athletes who are still learning the game. That’s helped give us some depth. But they’re still learning. We didn’t tackle well. That really hurt us because Homer broke some long runs just because we missed some easy tackles. It’s back to the drawing board with the tackling and the blocking. Back to the fundamentals. But I don’t feel bad, though. I told the team, ‘We’re still in contention.’ We just can’t quit mentally. We have to just stay in there and keep fighting and we’ll see what we’re made out of.”
Lincoln Prep returns to action at 7 p.m. next Friday as they play at the Magnolia School of Excellence in Shreveport.
Photo: Tony Valentino