Mohawks Edge Bobcats To Close Season
Thursday night the longtime Piggott-Corning football rivalry was rekindled at Parker Field with a trip to the playoffs on the line. Despite dismal seasons for both programs, the Bobcats had qualified for the fifth seed in 3A-3. But, by virtue of a three-way tie in the standings if the Mohawks could beat Corning by at least 13 points the Tribe would advance into the postseason. The same scenario was played out in the fall of 2012 with the Mohawks advancing.
As for the game itself, it proved to be a classic in the rivalry with the Mohawks posting an emotional 22-20 win while the Bobcats stayed close enough to hold on to the playoff spot.
Prior to the contest the nine senior members of the Mohawk football team and five senior members of the Marching Mohawk band were recognized. This year's senior football players include Nick McKinnie, Bradley Stephens, Eli Smith, Hunter Massey, J.P. Vavak, Aaron Massey, Jonathan Morgan, Garrett Cook and Caleb Benbrook. Senior members of the Marching Mohawk band include Michelle Low, Connor Boyster, Tray Provance, Eli Morris and Caleb Benbrook, who did double-duty this fall.
For Coach Michael Harrell and his staff, it was the first chance at defending the Rice Bowl, which has remained in Piggott's possession the past two years. And, helping the effort on the night the Tribe was led by senior Bradley Stephens with 239 yards rushing and two touchdowns while defensive end Bret Fuller notched an incredible 21 tackles.
"I was real proud of the kids--we get up for Corning like no other game all year long. And, we finally looked like the team we thought we had this year," Harrell said of the contest. "We finally got all our bullets back, and got everybody healthy at least to start the game. We did have some injury issues early, and saw three starters go down early. But, our kids really stepped up when it mattered and did a great job."
With a capacity crowd on both sides of the field, the Bobcats won the coin toss and elected to receive. The Corning squad then put together a strong drive, only to have it stall deep in Mohawk territory as the ball went over on downs. On the first Piggott play from scrimmage standout running back Bradley Stephens took it around left end and outran the Bobcat defenders 92 yards for the first TD. Nick McKinnie added the two point conversion and the Tribe led 8-0.
The remainder of the first quarter was dominated by the two defenses, as both teams turned the ball over and were forced to punt. Early in the second the Bobcats were able to mount a strong drive, and they answered with their own touchdown with 7:04 to play in the first half on a one yard pass reception. But, the two point conversion attempt was no good, and the Mohawk lead was 8-6.
The score stood throughout the remainder of the first half, thanks to both good defensive play and the penalty flag. The Mohawk defense also had two interceptions on the game, including a big pick on a fourth and goal in the second half.
The stalemate continued into the third quarter, but the Mohawks capitalized mid-way through the period as Trace Stallings broke off a 65 yard touchdown dash up the middle. This time the two point conversion was no good, and the Mohawk lead was 14-6.
The Bobcats answered with their own score later in the half, and converted on the two point attempt to tie the game at 14-14. But, the Mohawks weren't through as Stephens took off on a 54 yard touchdown jaunt just moments later. After catching his breath while the Bobcats jumped offsides on the conversion attempt, he returned and took it in for two to make it 22-14.
But, in keeping with the back-and-forth nature of the game Corning would again score, as they took it in from 12 yards out with 1:33 to play in the contest. But, the Mohawk defense again rose to the occasion and held solid on the conversion attempt, setting the final at 22-20.
The Bobcats did make one more last ditch effort, and were able to cover the onside kick. But, the Mohawk defense made several sparkling plays and preserved the win.
Of his first group of graduating seniors Harrell had nothing but praise, "I just can't enough about these nine seniors, and their loyalty to the program," he explained. "Coming in like this it's hard to start a new regime under a new head coach, and you're trying new things. And, these nine seniors they stuck with us and provided great leadership for us with the younger kids."
Harrell noted this group of seniors will also take a distinction with them, "They've never lost to Corning, and that's a big deal. I can't think of any class in recent history, and I've been around this program my whole life, that didn't lose to Corning seventh through 12th grade, ever. They're just a great bunch of guys, and I'm going to miss them tremendously."
Stephens finished with 239 yards on just 8 carries and two touchdowns, while Stallings finished with 61 yards on 6 carries and a touchdown and Logan Dixon had 7 carries for 49 yards. The Bobcats were led by Gonzalez with 122 yards on 16 carries. The Corning squad also took the edge in total offense with 389 to the Mohawk's 355.
Fuller's 21 tackles was tops on both sides, while Stallings had 13 tackles and an interception, Justin Goding had 7 tackles and one interception, Jonathan Morgan had 5 tackles and Caleb Welborn had 4 tackles early before leaving with an ankle injury.
"These seniors came in here and helped us get this program rolling to get it started, and I will forever be loyal to those guys," Harrell noted. "They helped lay the foundation for this football program, and the next three or four years are going to be a lot of fun."
"This freshman bunch is just special, say what you want to but when we add these freshmen we're a different team," he added of his junior team members. "They're the real deal, against Corning and their big line we started three freshmen and by the second quarter we had four in the game, it has just made us a better team."
Despite the Mohawk win the Bobcats will be traveling to Mountain View this Friday, Nov. 14, for their first round game. As for the Tribe, they'll look ahead to next year as they end their campaign at 3-6 overall and 2-5 in conference play.
"Beating Corning means a lot to us, it's a big deal. Maybe it's because all of our coaches are from here in Piggott, but it means a lot and we work hard to represent the community," Harrell said of the win.