Playoffs ultimate goal for 2003 campaign

Thursday, November 13, 2003

PIGGOTT -- In a highly dramatic climax to Senior Night Friday night at Parker Field here the Piggott Mohawk football team capped off a stunning performance by shutting down Marcus Monk, P.J. Lacy and the rest of the East Poinsett County Warriors for a thrilling, 12-8 win in what most team members thought was their final high school game.

It wasn't until after the game in the locker room that first year head coach Ken Shumate exclaimed to the team, "Westside just defeated Harrisburg! We're going to the playoffs!"

The locker room immediately erupted in celebration at the news.

Westside was 0-9 going into Friday night's contest with East Poinsett County only needed a win to make the fourth seed out of the 3AAA conference behind Rivercrest, Gosnell, and Osceola to advance to post season play.

It was first understood that Piggott would travel to Pocahontas this Friday to take on the undefeated Redskins in the first round of the playoffs, however, late Monday afternoon it was announced by the AAA office in Little Rock that Osceola used an ineligible player in all ten regular season games and was forced to forfeit all their wins and was disqualified from the state playoffs. In addition, the program was placed on probation. With the Osceola forfeits, Piggott moves up the district ladder improving to the third 3AAA seed with a 5-5, 4-3 conference record and will now take on the Newport Greynounds at Newport Friday.

EPC now advances to the playoffs as the fourth seed and will take Piggott's former slot and travel to Pocahontas for their first round game this Friday evening.

"This has just been a crazy last couple of days," assistant coach Shawn Hearn said Monday. "I've shed tears and hugged everybody in sight. This is absolutely incredible."

The Mohawks dominated early in Friday night's game with Nick Huskey picking off a Spencer Harston bomb attempt pass play to University of Arkansas-committed Marcus Monk on the first play of the game then controlling the ball for the entire first quarter. EPC had one offensive play in the opening 15 minutes.

"Our offense simply controlled the clock and that was key," coach Shumate said. "Our defensive strategy was bend, but do not break. We stood firm and never gave up the home run play."

Piggott senior Joe Blascoe put the Mohawks on the board for the first time of the night with a one-yard touchdown pluge at the 5:07 mark of the opening quarter. Nick Corrales' extra point attempt failed and Piggott led, 6-0.

Both defenses were staunch in the second period with neither team being able to find paydirt. Piggott remained in the lead by six at the halftime intermission.

At the 9:04 point of the third quarter, the Warriors took over the lead on a Monk seven-yard touchdown run. Brandon Sturdivant ran in the two-point conversion and EPC led 8-6 going into the final 15 minutes of regulation. Late in the fourth quarter, Blascoe recovered a Warrior fumble which was followed by the go-ahead and eventual game-winning five-yard touchdown run by Carey Rau with just over one minute to play. The two-point conversion failed, but Piggott took a four-point, 12-8, lead and held on for the miraculous victory. The Mohawk defense also shined in the fourth with Josh Hicks knocking Monk out of bounds inside the Mohawk 10 after Piggott coughed up a late fumble inside their own 30-yard line. The Piggott defense rallied to hold the Warriors to a three and out setting up the Mohawks' final scoring drive.

"For me," said Piggott senior lineman Lee Whittley, "Joe's fumble recovery was the play of the game. He saw the loose ball and sacrificed himself to make that play. All the seniors stood up and gave it their all -- we looked at this game as all or nothing."

Blascoe was injured on the recovery and was sidelined for the remainder of the game. Jake Jones took over the quarterback position for Piggott on the game-winning drive.

"We had to beat EPC to even have an outside chance at the playoffs," he added. "And we did what we set out to do."

Statistically on the night, Rau led Piggott on the ground with 109 yards on 25 carries. Blascoe added 81 yards on 18 totes with Kaleb Beutel adding 17 on two carries. John Midkiff tallied 15 yards, Jones picked up 14, and Mike Montana added eight.

Blascoe was 0-3 passing with one interception.

EPC quarterback Spencer Harston tallied 107 yards passing.

Monk was held to 31 yards rushing on the night for EPC with Sturdivant tallying only 29. On the ground, the Warriors were held to 72 yards on 18 carries by the Mohawk defense.

"The entire running game and our offensive line did a remarkable job all night --especially in the fourth quarter," coach Shumate said.

The coach praised the play of Bryan Manning, Jason Dalton, Wesley Gautreaux, Josh Hicks, Jake Vannada, Lee Whittley, Jake Jones, Joe Blascoe, and Nick Corrales for their efforts and contributions in the late stages of the game.

"They were the difference," he said.

"Senior night was a big part of it," Whittley added. "We had one last chance to show everybody what we had. This feels great."

"We knew right off the bat that EPC was definitely beatable," said coach Hearn. "We said from Day One we weren't going to focus our attention on Monk -- we were going to focus on the Warriors as a team. Our plan was to get out there on them early, get on top and beat on them a little bit and they would eventually lay down -- and that's exactly what happened.

"For these guys," he added, "their entire playing career hasn't been the best the last three seasons and they just wanted some kind of credit and validation to let people know they were good football players and EPC was a good football team and I believe these senior have that now.

"It was just an all-around team effort and everybody played smart -- they all did their jobs and stayed focused on their own responsibilities."

"Making the playoffs was our ultimate goal from the start," said Shumate. "Things just fell our way when Westside upset Harrisburg. We were ready to play Friday night against EPC and we will be ready to play this Friday."

Kickoff Friday night at Newport is slated for 7:30 p.m.

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