SPORTS >> Wildcats enjoy short field, win
Special to The Leader
Harding Academy won the turnover and field position battle, and as a result, won the game Friday night, beating Episcopal Collegiate 40-14 at First Security Stadium in Searcy.
Harding Academy led 27-0 at halftime as Episcopal struggled to hold onto the ball.
Harding Academy’s average starting field position in the first half was the Episcopal 42-yard line, while Episcopal averaged its 18. The visitors only started one of six first-half drives beyond their 20, at the 23. That drive featured an illegal procedure penalty before the first snap, moving the ball back to the 18.
“Our defense did a pretty good job of keeping them out of the end zone,” Harding Academy coach Roddy Mote said. “We created some turnovers and we were able to score some points off of it.”
There were nine turnovers between the two teams, but Mote wasn’t going to complain about the miscues after a big victory.
“It’s like I told our guys, sometimes you look at it and it appears to be an ugly win, but when you’re able to play and win a football game, you need to enjoy it,” Mote said.
Harding Academy’s first score came on its second possession, which started at the Episcopal 2 after a high punt snap rolled dead for a 30-yard loss. Junior Ben Lecrone ran it in and a failed extra point left it 6-0 with 5:44 to go.
That’s how the first quarter ended, but Harding scored quickly in the second, with quarterback Seth Keese getting the final yard of a 51-yard drive. The two-point conversion made it 14-0 with 10:48 left in the half.
Two Episcopal turnovers and one Harding Academy giveaway later, Harding Academy made it 21-0 with a three-play, 50-yard drive with Keese hitting Tyler Yarbrough from 20 yards out with 3:14 left in the half.
Episcopal turned it over on the first play of the ensuing possession when James Dillard intercepted a pass to set his team up 35 yards away from the end zone. On fourth and 6 from the 19, Keese scrambled and found an opening to put his team up 27-0 just before the half.
Episcopal scrapped the passing game in the second half and enjoyed more success offensively. It also stiffened up the defense and gave up just 44 yards in the third quarter.
Episcopal finally scored with 11:35 left on a 2-yard run by Derek Keaton to cap a 71-yard drive that pulled his team to within 27-6.
The offense sealed the win with a seven-play, 49-yard drive that made it 33-6 with 5:47 left in the game. Keese scored again on a 5-yard run to cap the possession.
Harding’s Tyler Curtis got an interception on the first play of the ensuing drive, but Episcopal got its second and final score three plays later on a 75-yard fumble return by Anderson with 4:16 left in the game.
Harding Academy went into the hurry-up, no-huddle offense and scored a final time to set the margin. This time it was a 2-yard plunge by Tyler Yarbrough.
Harding Academy finished with 400 yards while the visiting Wildcats totaled 208.
Keese ran the ball 11 times for 93 yards and two scores, and completed 15 of 29 pass attempts for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Lecrone ran the ball 20 times for 154 yards, and had two catches for 31 yards.
Spears led receivers with seven receptions for 76 yards.
Keaton finished with 110 all-purpose yards to lead Episcopal, running 10 times for 75 yards, and catching two passes for 35.
Heading into next week’s conference road game at England, Mote has reason to be optimistic with a 4-0 start, despite a sloppy Week 4.
“We work hard, but we know we need to get a lot better,” Mote said. “The season’s young and I think we’ll do that.”
Riverview was in control through three quarters until Mayflower went on a feeding frenzy in the fourth quarter Friday at Patrick Stadium.
The Eagles scored four touchdowns in the final 12 minutes to secure a 37-26, come-from-behind victory in the 2-3A Conference opener for both teams.
The Raiders (2-2, 0-1) were the ones to overcome a deficit in the first half, and added another touchdown late in the third quarter to go up 26-13, but it was the last time they found the end zone all night.
“The way we started was terrible defensively,” Raiders coach Stuart Hill said. “They went out for five or six plays and scored, but then we played great for the next two-and-a-half quarters. We talked all week about winning the fourth quarter, but we didn’t show any of that tonight.”
The Raiders took the lead at with 9:17 left in the second quarter when Harrell found receiver Eric Willis for a 72-yard touchdown pass to make it 18-13 at the half.
Harrell ran in the final score for Riverview with 1:33 left in the third quarter, and hit Willis again for the two-point conversion to give the Raiders a 26-13 lead.
“We just have to play the game better, that’s all there is to it,” Hill said. “We’re a little banged up right now, but you have to fight through that.”
Alexander had 15 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown for Riverview. Harrell was 14 of 29 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown as the Raiders had 479 yards of total offense.