SPORTS >> Wildcats get fast start, five fumbles
By JASON KING
No rust here.
The Harding Academy Wildcats returned to action for the first time in three weeks with a 43-13 victory over Paris in the second round of the 3A state playoffs at First Security Stadium on Friday.
The Wildcats (11-0) had not played since Nov. 6 after earning a first-round bye then waiting out a one-week postponement issued by the Arkansas Activities Association because of legal action over Lamar’s eligibility.
But the Wildcats wasted little time pouncing on the Eagles.
Paris (8-4) moved the ball consistently but spoiled its chances with five fumbles, all but one of which led to Harding Academy scores.
“We came out early, and our kids were real excited,” Harding Academy coach Roddy Mote said. “I think we were pretty anxious.
I thought we came out with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy. We were able to create some turnovers and convert those.”
Sophomore Landry Shipman had the first of the five Harding Academy fumble recoveries. Montgomery Fisher fell on a fumble with 3:36 left in the first quarter while Wildcat senior Christopher Karr pounced on two fumbles and sophomore David Brooker fell on the fifth one with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
The last fumble set up Harding Academy’s final score that made it 43-6 and set the clock in motion continuously under the high school sportsmanship/timing rule.
Harding Academy was up 36-6 after a 69-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Seth Keese to Tyler Curtis, and Brooker’s fumble recovery at the Paris 33 led to a first-down touchdown pass from Keese to Tyler Gentry on a possession that lasted only 7 seconds.
“Any time you can get a turnover is a critical time,” Mote said. “We practice that every day. We practice creating turnovers. We practice tackling every day and, fortunately, we were able to create some turnovers and capitalize on some of those. Not all of them like we need to, but I thought our defense did a great job.”
Keese was 10 of 14 for 195 yards and three touchdowns and added another 109 rushing yards and two scores on nine carries.
The Wildcats had 361 yards of total offense.
The Wildcats scored on the second play from scrimmage when Keese found Gentry on a screen pass to the right side. Gentry shook two tackles and went 63 yards down the sideline.