Mohawks Post Historic Win at Rivercrest

Thursday, October 6, 2016
Mohawk Justin Goding breaks into the open field during Friday night's win at Rivercest. The senior led all rushers with 121 yards on 19 carries and added 5 tackles in the historic win.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

The Piggott Mohawks chiseled their place in Northeast Arkansas football history Friday night, traveling to Wilson and beating the Rivercrest Colts 27-13. The victory was the first-ever for a Mohawk football team against the perennial postseason contenders. In fact, it marked the first time any of the Clay County teams have beaten the Colts.

"The guys really rose to the occasion, they left absolutely everything on the field," Mohawk Head Coach Michael Harrell said of the victory. "And, when that final whistle blowed there was so much emotion, they really laid it all out and they did what nobody thought could be done."

For Harrell, the effort has included over 10 years as a coach and the days he toiled as a Mohawk player. "It's been us and Corning, and we've been fighting this battle, and fighting Rivercrest, for 25 years," he added. "During that time they've had some really good football teams and we've had some really good football teams, but nobody had come close. And, these guys finally did it, they beat Rivercrest and I just couldn't be happier for the guys."

Despite the notoriety of the host team, the Tribe dominated the contest from the opening kick-off en route to the conference win. Winning the coin toss, the Mohawks chose to give the Colts the football first, allowing their talented defense to set the tone.

"Our defense is playing lights-out and they set the tone of the ball game. Friday night they got the ball first and our guys made them punt, go three and out, and that set the tone for the game right there," Harrell offered. "If they'd come out and drove and scored, no telling how it might have turned out. But, our defense studded-up, made them punt and for the fifth straight game we went down and scored on our first drive. And, that sets the tone for how we want the game to go, you're going to have to stop us to beat us."

Harrell also had high praise for the preparation involved in the defensive effort, giving credit where credit's due. "I was really proud of the way our defense played. As I've said before, Coach (Walter) Rau is one of the best defensive coaches around and he always has our guys ready to play."

After stopping the Colts on their first drive, the Mohawks found the endzone with 6:35 to play in the first as Gunner Shaw ran it in from 6 yards out. Bret Fuller tried the PAT, but it was no good, and the score stood at 6-0.

The Mohawks scored their second touchdown with 7:45 to go in the first half as Cade Harrell carried the ball in from 6 yards out. This time John Jones added the two point conversion, and the lead extended to 14-0.

As the game progressed, although the Mohawks never trailed, a number of mental errors, turnovers and penalties hampered the effort.

"We didn't play as clean of a game as we did against Osceola. We had three fumbles and lost two of them and seven or eight false starts," Harrell observed. "You know, if we'd have played the game that we did at Osceola we probably could have beat Rivercrest 42-7. We left several touchdowns on the field, including that fumble just before the half that would have put us up 21-0."

The fumble in question came on a late-half drive, as Dylan Bellers was stripped near the goal line after catching a Trey Gossett pass.

"I think a lot of it was just the nerves of playing Rivercrest, it's been a mental thing all these years," Harrell added. "We didn't play as clean as we could, which means there's still room for improvement."

The Colts scored their first touchdown with 7:48 to play in the third quarter on a fourth down pass play from the 27, as Robert Banks made the reception.

The Tribe answered just minutes later, as Harrell got his second TD of the night from one yard out. Bret Fuller then added the PAT.

Late in the third quarter the Colts would score once-more, as Preston Wilson found the endzone on a one yard run. Rivercrest went for the PAT, but Fuller blew through the line and blocked the attempt.

With 5:04 left in the ballgame Harrell got his third touchdown, effectively putting the game away. The score came from three yards out, although the extra point try was no good, setting the final at 27-13.

"I heard from several of the old coaches over the weekend, and they wanted me to know how proud they were that we were showing everyone that "old school" football can still win," Harrell offered. "You can play defense, and have a ball-control offense, and beat these fast spread teams. The other night I think we ran 86 offensive plays to Rivercrest's 36, and if they ain't got the ball they can't score. That's the formula we used against Osceola the last couple of years, we took it to Rivercrest and we're taking it to Newport."

Senior Justin Goding led all rushers with 121 yards on 19 carries, while Harrell finished with 111 on 22 carries, Gunner Shaw had 52 yards on 11 totes, Jones carried the ball 10 times for 42 yards, Hayden Lemmons had 16 yards on 3 carries and Gossett carried the ball once for 2 yards. Gossett was also 2 for 2 passing for 51 yards. The Colts were led by Kentavious Robinson with 83 yards on 10 carries.

The Tribe had nearly double the total offense of Rivercrest, 395 yards to 198 and the Tribe out-rushed their hosts 344 to 170.

Fuller paced the defense with 7 tackles, one for loss, one fumble recovery and a blocked PAT. Harrell had 6 tackles, and caused a fumble while Jones and Goding finished with 5 tackles each in the win.

Up next for the Mohawks is a showdown Friday night at Newport. Last week the former 4A Greyhounds pounded Walnut Ridge 28-8, handing the Bobcats their first loss in conference play.

"We're in uncharted territory for us. We went from the biggest game of our lives, to the next biggest game of our lives this week," Harrell concluded. "But, that's why we work hard and that's why we do this--so, this is fun right now."

On the plus side for the Tribe, Harrell noted all of the players came out of the Rivercrest game a bit battered, but fairly healthy.

"As you know, Newport was a 4A powerhouse that dropped down, and we'll see the best running backs we've seen all year and it will be the best defensive line we face all year long," he offered. "So, we've really got our hands full with them--but, I feel good about it, we're playing pretty good football right now."

With the win the Mohawks move to 5-0 overall, and 2-0 in conference. The last Piggot team to post a 5-0 start was the 8-2 team of 1991, a squad which included Coach Harrell as a junior.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Newport.

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