Tribe Edged by Newport in 3A-3 Showdown

Thursday, October 13, 2016
Senior running back Justin Goding looks for running room against Newport as junior tackle Nate Mallard trails the play for the Mohawks.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

The Piggott Mohawks traveled to Newport and took on the Greyhounds in a game for the ages Friday night, with the host team edging the Tribe by a single point, 7-6. The difference in the ballgame was actually a matter of feet, as the Mohawks went for the two-point conversion--and the win, as opposed to kicking a PAT for the tie, late in the contest.

The two defensive units were the stars of the night, as they battled tooth and nail in a match-up much too close to call. Time-after-time the defenses on both sides rose to the occasion, squelching scoring drives by the opposition.

"This week's statewide rankings has Newport and us as one and two on points allowed, and that's all of the teams from 7A down to 2A," Coach Michael Harrell said of the showdown.

When the final horn sounded the Greyhounds celebrated the slim victory, but the mutual respect was evident as the combants lined the 50 yard line for the traditional handshake. The Tribe and the 'Hounds also sent a clear message to the remainder of the conference as to who rules the roost.

The Greyhounds would get the ball first Friday night, and proceeded to move downfield. But, despite driving deep into Piggott territory, the Greyhounds would fumble at the Mohawk five yard line and it was recovered by Cade Harrell.

What followed would be played out several times over the course of the remainder of the ballgame, as neither offense could find running room against their opponent. And, what resulted was a contest played mostly between the two 35-yard lines, with a larger-than-average number of punts.

Late in the first half the Greyhounds mounted a drive, which appeared to stall near mid-field in Piggott territory. But, a late penalty stopped the clock with just seconds to go in the first half, giving the home team one more shot at the endzone. And, the Greyhounds took advantage of the opportunity, as Jay Crite caught a 36 yard touchdown pass to break the deadlock with no time showing on the clock. The PAT was good, and the host team enjoyed homecoming festivities at the half with a 7-0 lead.

The second half was much like the first, as the two defensive units dominated the opposing offensive squads. But, the Tribe would finally answer with a touchdown of their own with just 1:22 left in the ballgame. The score came as sophomore quarterback Trey Gossett hit senior running back Justin Goding in full stride with a 56 yard strike.

Coach Michael Harrell made the decision to go for two, and the win, putting the ball into the hands of his son, Cade. But, the Newport defense continued to have a strong game along the line, and Harrell was stuffed just feet short of the goal line.

With no timeouts left, and less than a minute to play, the Greyhounds ran out the remainder of the quarter and sealed the conference win.

"I had made up my mind what I would do before the game even started," Harrell said of going for the two-point conversion. "I always talk to my holder and my kicker and get an idea of how things are going in the pregame, and I had decided to go for two well before the touchdown."

Oddly, the Mohawk had more total yards than the Greyhounds, 207 to 172. Leading the Tribe rushing was Cade Harrell with 71 yards on 16 carries, John Jones had 21 yards on 7 carries, Goding had 18 yards on 11 carries and the touchdown catch, Lane Buchannon had 12 yards on 7 totes, Gossett carried the ball 6 times for 12 yards, Gunner Shaw had 11 yards on 3 carries and Hayden Lemmons had 4 carries for 6 yards against the stingy Greyhounds defense. Leading the Greyhounds rushing was senior Jordan Neal with 68 yards on 12 carries.

"There's no such thing as a good loss, but I guess if there was this one could be considered a good loss," Coach Harrell said of the contest. "Man, the guys just played their hearts out. But, you can always go back in any championship-level game like this, and look at every play and realize the importance of effort and doing your job on every single play. Every guy knowing what to do on every play is so important at this level."

Harrell noted the contest was much like a second, or third, round playoff game. "And that's where we want to be," he offered. "And we probably learned more out of this 7-6 loss than we would have from an 8-7 win. Now, don't get me wrong, who wouldn't want to be 6-0 coming out of that game. But, back in August if you'd asked me if I'd be happy with 5-1 at this point I would have said, absolutely."

The third year coach also reports his team remains healthy going into week seven, which has not always been the case.

"We're doing okay, the guys came in yesterday excited about Manila," he offered. "They've moved-on, they weren't moping or were down--they know they left it all out there. And, when we broke down the film you could see where we could improve here and there, and I think that after that loss we're a better team."

The win also shines a light on the playoff picture, as the Mohawks survive the "Tour of the Delta" with a 2-1 record, and more importantly tie-breakers over Osceola and Rivercrest. All three, and Manila, now stand at 2-1 in conference while Walnut Ridge is 1-2 and hapless Hoxie and Corning are in the cellar at 0-3.

The standings also illustrate the importance of a Mohawk win Friday night, as the Manila Lions visit for homecoming.

"Manila has a good defense, they're a good ball team and are right there in the mix with us," he offered. "You know with Coach (Jerry) Castor we're going to get their best game, we always do. But, they're going to get our best game this week, too."

Harrell reported the team reviewed film on Monday, and were donning the pads on Tuesday to prepare for the contest.

"Like I told the boys, even if we'd have won that game we still need to win-out," Harrell offered. "It's the same scenario, and if somebody can slip-up on Newport and beat them by two points that's all we'd need. And, they've still gotta go to Rivercrest and Osceola. There are games to be played."

The stakes are high for the Tribe, as success down the stretch will mean the difference in hosting playoff games, or going on the road in the first rounds.

"If we take care of business we host the first two rounds of the playoffs," Harrell said of the opportunity. "And, if someone can sneak-up on Newport and steal a win we could be hosting the first three rounds."

With a Mohawk win over Manila Friday night for homecoming they'll avenge last year's home loss, which put the Tribe out of the playoffs, and will further cement their chances for a top-two finish. The following week the Mohawks will visit Walnut Ridge, then close the season with home games against Hoxie and Corning. With a clean sweep of the remainder of the schedule, the Mohawks would host a playoff game for the first time, and would take on the fourth place finisher from 3A-2. With four games to play, currently Cedar Ridge, Mayflower and Harding Academy are all tied for second behind undefeated Bald Knob.

Homecoming festivities are set to get underway at 6 p.m. Friday, with the contest between the Mohawks and Lions to follow at 7.

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