Mohawks Edge Cougars in Showdown
The Piggott Mohawks visited the Rector Cougars in non-conference football action for the first time in nearly a decade Friday night, with the visitors pounding out a 28-12 victory. The contest featured everything one would expect from one of the strongest football rivalries in Northeast Arkansas, including several big plays and a few somewhat controversial calls.
When the final horn had sounded the teams gathered together at mid-field, with their coaches and fans, and offered a prayer of thanks for the opportunity.
Adding to the tension of renewing a rivalry which dates back well before World War II, was the story of the two head coaches. The contest pitted former Cougar standout, and current head coach, David Hendrix against the team he coached for 10 years. Facing him on the other sideline was his former assistant, Mohawk coach Michael Harrell, who considers the RHS head man to be his mentor.
With a capacity crowd as the backdrop, the drama was played-out on the turf of Temerian Field.
The Cougars would kick off to begin the ballgame, with Tristan Lamar and Lonnie Yancey dropping the Mohawks' Logan Dixon on a short squib kick near mid-field. The Mohawk offense then went to work, with Dixon and Trace Stallings getting the nod. On third down Cougar Brian Hufty stopped Stallings for no gain, and PHS was forced to punt it away.
A strong punt by the Mohawks rolled to the six, leaving the Cougars deep in their own territory to begin their first drive.
Garrett Buck got a short gainer on the first play, one of 25 carries he'd have on the night, and was wrapped-up by Dakota Santos. On third down Tommy Stokes was stacked-up by a host of Mohawks, led by Michael Massey and Bret Fuller, and the Cougars faced fourth down from their own 15.
Choosing to go for it on fourth down, the Mohawk defense rose to the occasion and stopped the Cougars short of the marker. The Tribe then took over on downs at the 11.
Dixon got the nod, but was strung-out by Danny Hager on first down. Moments later he got another chance and carried it in for an 11-yard touchdown. Seth Lacey kicked the PAT and the Mohawk lead was 7-0.
The Cougars began their second drive at the Mohawk 32, and it was extended by the Mohawk defense on a fourth down pass interference call. After a couple of strong runs, the Cougars fumbled the football back to the Mohawks, with Caleb Welborn recovering.
The Piggott offense then began to put together a strong drive behind the running of Dixon and Cody Crittenden. With 3:27 to go in the first quarter the fumble bug also bit the Tribe, as they put the ball on the ground and it was recovered by the Cougars.
On the following drive Bam Westbrook had several big carries, including a six-yard first down run. On third down Piggott's Nate Mallard and John Jones chased Westbrook down on a sweep, forcing a fourth-and-one situation for the Cougars at mid-field.
After trying to draw the Mohawk defense offside, quarterback Lawson Ford called a timeout. Following the timeout Buck got the call for the Cougars and carried the ball to the 38 for a first down. As the first quarter drew to a close the Rector offense faced third-and-four.
On the first play of the second quarter the RHS offense drew a holding flag and Buck was only able to get a part of it back on second down. Ford then went to Chase Jackson in the flat and followed that up with a shot to Jackson in the end zone which was almost picked off by a Mohawk defender.
Facing fourth and long from the 27, Ford scrambled and was dropped by the Mohawks' Mallard and Massey. The 10-yard loss on the play also resulted in the Tribe taking over on downs, as they set up shop at the Cougar 37.
The Mohawks were also unable to capitalize on the turnover, first being penalized and then fumbling the ball back to the Cougars with just under nine minutes to play in the half.
The RHS offense then began to put together a drive, with Buck ripping off a 13-yard carry. But a big stop by the Mohawk defense left the Cougars facing fourth and long. After burning a timeout, Buck rolled out and quick-kicked the ball to the Mohawk 18.
Moments later Crittenden broke off a long touchdown run for the Mohawks, but the carry was nullified by penalty flags. The officials flagged both Piggott and Rector for off-setting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, stepped off 15 yards each direction and signaled first-and-10 Piggott.
Stallings delivered several strong runs in the following drive, but it ended with the Mohawks turning the ball back over to the Cougars.
The Rector offense then began to put together a good drive, highlighted by several strong runs by Buck. But the Piggott defense once again rose to the occasion, and the first half drew to a close with the Mohawks enjoying a 7-0 lead.
As the second half got underway the penalty flags continue to fly, as the Mohawks were whistled for an inadvertent facemask on the kickoff. This gave the Cougars good field position, as they took over at their own 38.
The Mohawk defense apparently made adjustments at the half, and stifled the Cougar offense, forcing a punt. Once again, the quick-kick was employed, and this time one of the Mohawks touched the ball first, giving possession back to the Cougars. The Piggott special teams were also flagged for roughing the kicker.
Following the turnover Ford tried once again to establish the Cougar passing game, but the Mohawk defense stepped up their pressure. The drive ended once again with Buck quick-kicking after taking the pitch back from Ford. The ball rolled inside the Piggott 20 and the Mohawks took over.
Fuller then carried the football for good yardage, followed by back-to-back carries by Dixon, as the Tribe moved into Cougar territory. The Mohawks would increase their lead with 5:51 to go in the third quarter, as Crittenden scored from 16 yards out following a piling-on call on the Cougars.
On the PAT the Cougars were called for encroachment, prompting coach Harrell to line up the Mohawk offense for a two-point try. Dixon carried it in for the conversion, and the Mohawk lead was 15-0.
On the following kickoff the Cougars were whistled for a 15-yard penalty, as they set up deep in their own territory. Several plays later the Mohawks got their own 15-yard penalty, which advanced the Rector drive to near mid-field. Defensive pressure from the Tribe took its toll as Ford rolled out in the flat and was intercepted by Celeston Haywood near mid-field.
As the third quarter drew to a close, the Mohawks were attempting to mount yet another scoring drive.
Early in the fourth, Mohawk quarterback Bret Fuller was whistled for intentional grounding, resulting in a punting situation. Due to a bad snap, the Mohawk punter was wrapped-up by the Cougars, and the RHS offense took over just outside the 20.
Hufty pulled down a pass from Ford at about the 13-yard line, and on the next play Westbrook carried it in for a Cougar touchdown. Hendrix then chose to go for two, but Ford's pass attempt to Hager was no good and the score stood at 15-6 in favor of the Mohawks.
Early in the fourth quarter Dixon broke off a 54-yard touchdown run for the Mohawks, although the two-point conversion attempt by Landon Williams was no good. With the score the Piggott lead was extended to 21-6.
The following drive by the Cougars was their strongest of the contest, as Ford and company ate up much of the fourth quarter moving the ball downfield. They scored their second TD of the game as Buck ran it in from five yards out with 3:49 to play. Once again the Mohawk defense was ready for the two-point conversion as Jones knocked away the Ford pass attempt.
Late in the contest Dixon broke yet another long sweep around the right side and scored from 35 yards out. Lacy added the PAT and the final score was set at 28-12.
Piggott's Dixon led all rushers with 193 yards on 18 carries while Buck had 85 yards on 25 carries for the Cougars. Crittenden had 85 yards on eight carries for the Mohawks, while Westbrook finished with 45 yards on 10 carries. The Tribe outgained their hosts 342 to 168 in total offense, all on the ground. Meanwhile, Ford was two for 11 for 11 yards passing for the Cougars.
The Cougars were flagged for 105 penalty yards on the game, while the Mohawks were whistled for a total of 85 yards.
"Man, we played our tails off," Cougar coach Hendrix said of his team's performance. "We can't play any harder than what we just played. You know, they're a good football team and we went toe-to-toe with them, and that's all I can ask -- I can't ask anything else of our kids."
"I'm just glad to get out of here with a win, we're 3-0 now," Harrell said of the contest. "Like I said last week, they've got the better coach and that showed tonight. But we were able to wear them down and that's where we were able to use our depth. Our kids really played hard and we wore them down."
"We hung in there, but credit Piggott -- they found a way to win and they just hung in there and kept pounding," Hendrix noted of the opponents. "All our kids played just as hard as they could, now if we can just figure out how we can get them to play like that every Friday night we'll be in business."
"We've got a few things to fix, and a few guys are banged up, but we see what we need to be working on," Harrell added. "Looking to our bigger goals we know if we want to win a conference championship there's a few things we're going to have to clean-up to do that. It's time to turn our attention to things like taking better care of the football if we want to beat teams like Osceola and Rivercrest."
The Cougars will begin 2A-3 conference play at home Friday night as they host Walnut Ridge. Meanwhile, the Mohawks will be on the road at Osceola to take on the Seminoles in 3A-3 action. Kickoff for both contests is set for 7 p.m.