SPORTS >> Wildcats, turnovers too much for Barton
Special to The Leader
SEARCY — What was expected to be Harding Academy’s first serious challenge of the 3A-2 Conference season turned out to be another snoozer.
The Wildcats took advantage of two early Barton turnovers and went on to pound the Bears, 47-20.
“Those were huge,” Harding Academy coach Roddy Mote said of the early Barton miscues. “Any turnover you get is big, but those – happening that early – really gave us some momentum because we were able to take advantage of them and turn them into points.”
The victory pushed the Wildcats to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in league play. Barton, which had won three consecutive games, slipped to 3-3 overall and suffered its first conference setback.
The Bears fumbled the ball away on their first two plays and Harding Academy wasted little time capitalizing. Sandwiched between the pair of Wildcat scores, Barton’s Bryan Gause returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 7-6 and keeping the game from turning into an early rout.
Gause lost the football on Barton’s first play and Harding Academy’s Ben Lecrone ran twice before hauling in a 9-yard scoring pass from quarterback Seth Keese. Josh Spears’ kick made it 7-0 with just more than a minute off the clock.
Following Gause’s return, Keese hit Tyler Gentry on a 66-yard scoring pass to extend the lead to 14-6.
The Bears turned it over again on the first play following the kickoff and the Wildcats marched 43 yards in 8 plays to score again. Keese connected with James Dillard on a 25-yard pass to make it 21-6 with 7:53 left in the opening quarter.
Keese, a junior, finished the game 13 of 14 passing for 225 yards and four touchdowns.
“Those early turnovers can’t happen,” Barton coach Mike Bush said. “You just can’t give a team like Harding Academy breaks like that. We’re a young, young team. We’re just full of juniors and sophomores and they just haven’t learned to win big games yet. We’re beating the teams we’re supposed to beat, we just have to take that next step.”
Late in the second quarter Gentry returned a Barton punt 22 yards to the Bears’ 48 before Keese hit Dillard for 24 yards and Gentry for 12 more.
A pass to Lecrone to the 1 set up Lecrone’s touchdown run. The kick failed, leaving the Wildcats up 27-6 with 4:14 until the half.
“We got a little conservative there after we got the lead early,” Mote said. “It was one of those things where we didn’t want to risk a lot with the lead. We were throwing it well and probably should have gone ahead and pushed it there.”
RIVERVIEW 24, BRINKLEY 22
Great clock management was not enough for Brinkley on Friday as visiting Riverview made the most of its limited offensive opportunities to take a 24-22 victory at Brinkley’s Tiger Field.
It was a rematch of last year’s game that decided the No. 4 seed from of the 2-3A Conference. The Raiders (4-2, 2-1) made history repeat with an offense that scored on pass plays from senior quarterback Grafton Harrell to Erice Willis for the first two touchdowns, and a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Harrell in the final minute of the third quarter.
Harrell also led the Raider offense on three successful two-point conversions. He hit Willis for the first, and called his own number for the next two.
The Tigers (2-4, 1-2) kept pace until their final two-point conversion attempt with 4:54 left in the game, when senior Stetson Evans and the Raider defensive line stuffed Brinkley’s fullback short of the goal line to preserve the victory.
“We never had the ball hardly,” Raiders coach Stuart Hill said. “They had three times as many plays as we did. They really worked the clock. They wanted to shorten the game while we wanted to extend it. The defense just couldn’t get them off the field fast enough.”
WEST MEMPHIS 40, SEARCY 3
The Searcy Lions fell to host West Memphis 40-3 on Friday.
The Blue Devils (6-0, 3-0 6A-East) took a 27-3 lead at the half and never looked back. The Lions (2-4, 1-2) moved the ball well at times, and got inside the Blue Devils’ red zone on three different occasions.
But a second-quarter field goal by Steven Seitz made for the only points the Lions got out of the game.
“We had our moments, and we missed those opportunities,” Lions coach Tim Harper said. “The Searcy Lions are still their own worst enemy, but West Memphis is a good team.”
Searcy will host Jacksonville next week. The Red Devils routed Little Rock Hall 46-0 on Friday.