Mohawks Win Homecoming Thriller

Thursday, October 20, 2016
Cade Harrell (32) follows the block of senior Bret Fuller (3) for positive yards in the Mohawk win over the Lions at Parker Field.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

A near-capacity homecoming crowd was treated to an exciting high school football game Friday night at Parker Field in Piggott. With major playoff implications on the line, the Piggott Mohawks and Manila Lions battled into overtime tied at 14-14, with the Tribe pulling out a 21-20 overtime win on a last-second defensive stand. For the home crowd, it was a storybook ending as the contest was played-out as a thick fog rolled into the region. For for the Lions, they left with a number of key players injured and a dimmer look at the playoff picture.

Following the usual homecoming pageantry, as the queen and her court was introduced, the Mohawks and the Lions got down to the business of determining the pecking order in the 3A-3 conference. What followed was a hard-fought contest between two fairly-evenly matched opponents. And, although the final score was as close as possible, the Tribe actually dominated the stats on both sides of the football.

"I expected it to be a tough game, some people acted like they were shocked but Manila is a good football team," Coach Michael Harrell said of the win. "They're a heck of a football team, and if they stayed healthy they'd have a chance to win the next three games in a row in conference. But, it was a very physical game and we were glad to come out on top."

Senior captains Bret Fuller, Trevon Allen and Justin Goding were dispatched for the coin toss, and the Mohawks defered to the second half. On the opening kick-off John Jones of the Mohawks set the tone for the contest, dropping Manila's Kyle Bell on the 14. On their opening drive the Lions also set the tone for their night, as quarterback Patrick Tanner came out passing with a three yard completion to start the contest. Later, the drive was extended as Gunner Shaw was called for a horse collar tackle.

Jones and Lane Buchannon made a key stop on second down, and on third down Luke Boyd shot a gap and dropped the ball carrier for a short gain bringing up fourth and five. The Lions then punted to Hayden Lemmons, but the ball rolled by the Piggott DB inside the 10 yard line.

The Tribe then put together a 90 yard drive which consumed most of the remainder of the second quarter. Cade Harrell got five yards on first down, with Jones adding two more. Shaw picked-up the first down on a sweep to around the 25, and an encroachment call on the Lions helped the drive progress.

The drive began to stall around the 5:25 mark of the first, but senior Bret Fuller pulled down a Trey Gossett pass on fourth and four to maintain possession. Goding took it in for the Mohawk's first touchdown with 1:56 to go in the first, and Bret Fuller added the PAT to make it 7-0.

The Lions returned the ensuing kick-off out to around their own 29, with Quentin Reeves making a good stop for the Tribe. Manila then tried to mount a scoring drive of their own behind the running of Logan Hamilton and Timmy Smith, but a sack of Tanner by Piggott's Dominic Reagan left them facing fourth and long.

Shaw returned the punt to around the Lion 43, and Gossett carried the ball down to the 32 on the final play of the first quarter.

The Mohawks continued to pound the ball into the second quarter, with runs by Harrell and Jones, but Gossett was sacked on fourth and six and the Lions got the ball back with 8:36 to go in the first half.

The Lions then began to mount their own scoring drive, with Smith, Hamilton and Tanner providing the yardage on the ground. Despite good plays by Allen, Reagan, Jones and Harrell, the Lions moved the ball downfield and scored with 3:40 to go in the first half on a sweep play by Smith. But, the Mohawks blocked the PAT and the score stood at 7-6.

Shaw returned the following kickoff to around the 32, and the Lions were called for roughing Gossett on first down. With time running down in the half, Shaw fumbled the ball back to the Lions on the 38. But, Bret Fuller came up big with a tipped pass attempt to end one scoring threat, and junior noseguard Nate Mallard led a host of Mohawks on a stop of Tanner as time ran out in the first half.

The Mohawks watched the ball roll into the endzone on the kickoff to begin the second half, and put together a scoring drive starting at the 20. The drive included an illegal blocking call on Bellers for the Mohawks, and a late hit on Manila's Josh South.

John Jones set up the touchdown, and then took it into the endzone to extend the Mohawk lead. The score came with 6:41 to go in the third, and once again Bret Fuller added the PAT to make it 14-6.

On the following kickoff the Lions began to put together another scoring drive. Despite key defensive plays by Mason Tillman, Harrell and Jones the Lions capitalized on a 38 yard touchdown catch and run by Tyler Archer. Manila lined-up to go for two points, and the tie, and the Tribe was whistled for roughing the passer and penalized half the distance to the goal. Smith got the nod on the second try, and scored to tie the score at 14-14 with 4:52 to go in the third.

To say the remainder of the third quarter, and the full fourth quarter, were uneventful would be far from the truth, despite the fact neither team scored throughout the remainder of regulation. Both squads threatened, and both were whistled for key penalties and made outstanding plays.

The intensity of the contest was also evident in the injuries which followed, as several of the Manila players had to be helped from the field, including Hamilton. He was injured on a play late in the game, as he was gang-tackled by the Mohawks and driven into the turf. According to the Manila coaching staff he was to be transported to PCH by ambulance, and was expected to be out of service this coming week due to the concussion protocal. Piggott's Bellers also re-aggravated the earlier ankle injury late in the game.

Both teams had late shots at the endzone, but the clock expired as the Mohawk pass reciever ran out of bounds with no time showing to end regulation.

The Mohawks won the coin toss, but this time chose to take the ball first in the overtime tie-breaker. On first and goal Harrell carried it ahead for about four yards, and on second down Shaw was stacked-up at the line of scrimmage. On third down Jones carried it to the three. Down to their last play, Gossett kept it up the middle and followed his talented line to paydirt. Fuller then added his third PAT of the day, and the score stood at 21-14.

The Lions would then get their chance, and Archer carried it to the three where he was forced out of bounds by Goding to save the score. Waddell then got the nod for the banged-up Lions, and scored to make it 21-20.

Following a Manila timeout to talk it over, the Lions lined up for the two point conversion--and the win. But, the Tribe was ready and swarmed the ball carrier to preserve the win.

"I have all the respect for Coach (Jerry) Castor and what he'd done with that Manila football program," Harrell said of the game. "He's good, and you never know what he'll do--so it's kind of fun to coach against him."

Of the contest itself, Harrell had mixed feelings.

"95 yards in penalties, that's just not us. We've been very disciplined all season and we've gotta' clean those things up," he offered. "A lot of those came on third and fourth down, which was crucial, and we had two turnovers that we have to clean up. I think we could have won this game by 21 points. We had several chances, first and goal at the six on time, and didn't punch it in--but, you've gotta give Manila's defense credit."

Moving to 6-1 overall, and 3-1 in conference play, the third year coach noted the Lions had been of a concern. "Those kids play hard, and we match up very well," he noted. "That was the game I was worried about being our bump in the road game, because we match up so well, and our kids both play hard."

On paper, the game was all Mohawks, as they dominated both offensive and defensive stats.

"We really just shot ourselves in the foot, which allowed them to hang around," he offered. "But, the roughing the kicker in the endzone was on me, I called punt rush and should have played safe and we would have gotten the ball in good field position."

The Mohawk ground game was led by Jones with 75 yards on 12 carries, while Shaw finished with 63 on 11, Buchannon had 53 on 9 carries and Harrell had 51 yards on 11. Gossett was 4 of 6 on the game for 67 yards, while Tanner was 10 of 18 for 142 for the Lions. Total yards went to the Tribe by a wide margin, 384 to 180 and the Mohawks held the Manila ball carriers to just 38 yards on the ground.

Friday night the Tribe will be on the road at Walnut Ridge as they continue to battle for a top spot, and home playoff game.

"Walnut Ridge always presents a challenge, they have good kids who play hard and good skilled players," he added of the Bobcats (4-3 overall and 1-3 in conference) "What really hurts them is their depth, and that's what has cost them this year. We need to play a perfect game at Walnut Ridge, and do our thing. I have a lot of confidence in our guys--but they present a good challenge for us."

Newport still remains atop the standings at 4-0, while the Tribe and Rivercrest are both 3-1 with the Mohawks enjoying the tiebreaker. Manila and Osceola are both 2-2 in conference, Hoxie and Walnut Ridge are both 1-3 and Corning remains winless. This week Newport visits Rivercrest, Manila hosts Osceola and Hoxie visits Corning.

"All I know is that it's great to be 6-1, and we're looking forward to the rest of the season," Harrell surmised.

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