SPORTS >>Cats strike early, often in easy win
Special to the Leader
SEARCY – Two teams headed in opposite directions refused to change courses here Friday night at First Security Stadium. Harding Academy quarterback Seth Keese was perfect in the first half as the Wildcats thumped 3A-2 Conference foe England, 45-6.
Harding Academy improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in league play. England remained winless on the season at 0-5.
Keese, a sophomore, completed all 11 of his passes for 205 yards and 4 touchdowns before tweaking his ankle late in the first half. Matt Lincoln, the Wildcats’ starter at quarterback last season, stepped in and tossed a touchdown pass of his own to give Harding Academy a 38-0 halftime lead.
With the 35-point Sportmanship Rule in effect and a running clock for the entirety of the second half, the Wildcats tacked on another score. Harding Academy’s reserves gave up a touchdown in the game’s final minute.
“We prepare to execute … that’s what we do,” Harding Academy coach Roddy Mote said afterward. “I didn’t know Seth was 11-11. That’s fantastic. We were able to get the ball into a lot of different people’s hands and that’s good. The offensive line worked hard tonight.”
England opened with its biggest bang of the night, recovering an onside kick to start the game. The Lions drove to the Harding Academy 31 before Demarcus Bunch fumbled and Braxton Bennett recovered for the Wildcats. A seven-play drive that took less than three minutes was capped by Keese’s first touchdown toss, a 4-yarder to tailback Ty Finley. Zach Medley booted the score to 7-0 with 7:26 left in the opening quarter.
The Lions coughed up the ball again on their next play and Keese hit Bennett on a screen for a 31-yard score. The Wildcats pushed the lead to 21-0 less than four minutes later when Keese connected with Tyler Gentry on a 63-yard catch-and-run off another screen pass.
England drove again to the Harding Academy 31, but quarterback Derrick Davis’ pass to Bunch was short of the first down and the Wildcats went back to work. A 20-yard completion from Keese to Lincoln and an 11-yarder to Gentry set up a 24-yard scoring toss from Keese to Lincoln. Finley ran for two points and HA led 29-0.
Gentry threatened another big play when he returned an England punt for what looked like an easy score but fumbled the ball away at the Lions’ 1. England’s Mark Hatton was stopped in the Lions’ end zone on the first play for a safety and a 31-0 Wildcat lead.
Harding Academy took the kick and used a 22-yard pass from Keese to Gentry to set up Lincoln’s TD pass.
Mote said after the game that Keese had rolled his ankle on a run before Lincoln took over.
Gentry opened the second half by picking off a Davis pass. On the Wildcats’ first play of the half, Finley galloped 35 yards for a 45-0 lead. Harding Academy’s reserves kept the ball nearly 11 minutes – with the running clock, before turning it over on downs at the England 11.
Davis connected with Matt Russell on a 70-yard pass to the HA 1 before Davis broke the shutout by plunging over the middle.
After running roughshod over its competition for the first five weeks, the Wildcats expect a challenge next Friday when they travel to meet unbeaten Barton. Though the Bears, a traditional power, were forced to cancel their season last year due to low numbers, Barton is sitting at 5-0.
“We’re just going to come out and get to work on Monday and start preparing,” Mote said.
The Wildcats had 383 total yards, compared to just 176 for the Lions. Seventy of that came on one play against HA reserves. Lincoln finished 3-of-6 passing for 40 yards. Seven different receivers caught passes for the Wildcats, led by Gentry’s four catches for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Harding Academy ran for 138 yards. Finley had 59 on 7 carries and Keese had 6 carries for 47 yards.