STAR CITY — The Star City Bulldogs held their breath as a 43-yard field goal attempt from Lonoke Jackrabbits kicker Jose Garcia fell short with 1:08 left on the clock.
The miss helped the Bulldogs and first-year head coach Jett Furneaux open the season 1-0 with a 16-14 victory on Friday night.
"1-0 is always better than 0-1 and this one being special with it being my first one so I’m really excited about it," Furneaux said.
Star City led 16-14 when Lonoke took over from its own 20-yard line with five minutes left in the game.
Quarterback Kody Smith led the Jackrabbits down the field and into Bulldog territory. A third down reverse pass was dropped by a wide open Smith and the Jackrabbits opted to try the long field goal. On the kick, the snapper sailed the ball over the holder’s head as the crowd went wild.
However, prior to the snap, Star City had called a timeout to make sure there wouldn’t be a fake, so the Jackrabbits were given another opportunity.
"I thought man, your first game and this is going to be your first bonehead decision. Luckily for us … it didn’t go through," Furneaux said.
The Bulldogs established the running game with their running back by committee. With the combination of DaJunn Harris, Tye Brown and Darien Washington, Furneaux was pleased to have the choice of who to give the ball to.
"They do a great job rotating in and out," he said. "We don’t feel like we lose much of anything with all three of them back there.
"We definitely wanted to come out and establish the run."
Star City put the first points on the board when Harris scored from four yards out. The Bulldogs added another touchdown late in the second quarter when Brown found wide receiver Bo McBroom down the middle for a 23-yard touchdown pass to put Star City up 13-0.
Lonoke responded on the ensuing kickoff when star receiver Blake Mack returned the ball down to the Star City 32-yard line. A few plays later, Mack took an end-around handoff and scooted in from four yards out to cut the lead to 13-7 with 47 seconds left before halftime.
For the most part, the Bulldogs did a good job of containing Mack. Furneaux knew coming in they would have their hands full with such an athlete.
"We knew he was going to get his, the coach said. "We knew he was going to make some big plays.
"You’re not going to stop a guy like that. You can only hope to contain him."
Lonoke took the lead on an 11-play, 87-yard drive in the third quarter when Smith scored on a two-yard touchdown run to give the Jackrabbits a 14-13 lead. Lonoke had another opportunity to increase its lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
On fourth down, the Jackrabbits opted to go for the end zone instead of trying a field goal. Star City’s defensive back Austin Smith broke up the pass in the left corner of the end zone to gain some momentum for the Bulldogs.
Star City drove down the field and Eric Estaban kicked the eventual game-winning 28-yard field goal with 5:05 left to play.