The 0-2 Newport Greypups opened conference play off the "worst loss" of Coach Josh Austin's two-plus years as their head coach.
A week prior, Austin's Greypups were lackluster in a 20-0 loss to Bald Knob and a dejected coach knew walking off the Greyhound Field turf that changes were inevitable. A tough week of practice led to a better feeling as he exited after their conference opener, even if the scoreboard did not back it up. "That's probably the best 36-8 butt-whipping I've ever taken. I know that when we watch film its going to be a lot better than last week," Austin said after watching Pine Bluff Dollarway knock off his Greypups 36-8. "I feel a whole lot better tonight than I did last week. The score is not reflective of what they did this week." Austin's Greypups, which have had trouble finishing drives, took their first possession of the game and punctuated it with a 30-yard touchdown run by Jordan Mabry, who also added the two-point conversion for an early 8-0 Newport lead. A 13-yard touchdown run by Martell Scott at the 3:03 mark of the first quarter cut the lead to 8-6 following an unsuccessful two-point conversion. Following a Dollarway interception of a Newport pass, Kendrick Turner hauled in a 29-yard scoring strike with 5.8 seconds to go in the opening quarter to give Dollarway their first lead. The two-point conversion pushed their advantage to 14-8. Following another good drive by the Pups that stalled deep in Dollarway territory with only seconds remaining in the half, the Cardinals struck for a backbreaker. With 2.8 seconds to go, Dollarway called a timeout before handing the ball to Scott, who tried to work his way up the left sideline. Bottled up by the Newport defense, the speedy tailback reversed field and raced 90-yards for a score. Dollarway added the two-point conversion for a 22-8 lead at halftime. "Anytime you get a play that is over 20 or 30 yards I feel like it is a huge momentum swing and when you get one of that magnitude, it is a heartbreaker. I felt like we had that bottled up and then he gets loose. The kid made a heck of a play," Austin said of the late score. "When we went to half though and came back out, my guys still weren't down. Sometimes you may expect the air to be taken out of you after a play like that, but they came out on their first drive and moved the ball down the field." His Pups, who got the opening kickoff of the second half pushed the ball across midfield before turning it over on downs to the Dollarway offense. Scott capped off the ensuing Cardinal possession with a 7-yard touchdown run. A juggling 25-yard interception return for a score and a two-point conversion set the final margin. However, Austin was pleased with his team's effort, even in a loss. "I'm proud of them. It is not where we want to be obviously, but when you put that much effort into something and you see they are improving you have to feel better about it." A renewed dedication to effort in practice by his older kids fueled the improvement, Austin notes. "I felt like we got out of our practices this week what we put in. We went out an hour early but we didn't go out and waste time." Austin continued, "From the time the bell rings for their last period and them to get over to me they had to run over and get dressed and sprint out to the field. We work in five minute sessions over there and we just keep rotating and rotating and moving to drill after drill and hitting and hitting. We had a lot of competition in practice this week." He added, "Some of those guys lost jobs this week and they keep fighting for them and fighting for them. The competition level has increased this week. I'm going to keep the same thing going moving forward." "If you are a starter on the offensive line someone can call you out and challenge you and there were some guys that earned spots this week that didn't have them last week."