Tribe Stumbles in Conference Play at Walnut Ridge

Thursday, October 27, 2016
Mohawk senior running back Justin Goding tip-toes along the sidelines during Friday night's game at Walnut Ridge.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

The Piggott Mohawks and Walnut Ridge Bobcats brought back memories of days gone by Friday night, as the two former conference foes re-newed a long-standing high school football rivalry. The showdown featured one of the best defensive units in the state on the Mohawk side, while the hosts included the top running back in the conference. And when it was all said and done, the contest more than lived-up to the history of the series, as the Bobcats squeaked by the Tribe for a 14-13 win.

"It was such a disappointment, I just didn't have them ready to go," Coach Michael Harrell said of the contest. "It's all on me, I just didn't have them ready to go for Friday night. Not being in school Friday got us out of our usual game day routine, and we came out a little flat."

With a large crowd on both sides of the field, the contest would begin with the talented Walnut Ridge offense, including senior running back Luke Harper, getting first shot. Setting up at the 37, the Bobcats began a drive which ended with a fumble at the Mohawks 34. The Tribe then began to mount their own drive, with Cade Harrell picking up a key first down. The drive sputtered on a fourth and three, as Dylan Bellers jumped off-sides and Bret Fuller was forced to punt the ball away.

Slade Dalton caught the punt around the 19, and was immediately laid-out by Harrell and Reegan Mayberry.

Throughout the remainder of the first quarter neither of the teams could mount a sustainable drive, and bothsuffered from key penalty flags. As the first quarter ran-out the Mohawks went for it on fourth and six, with Harper batting down the pass to give the Bobcats the ball back on downs.

"We just never could seem to get in the rhythm on offense," Harrell said of the effort.

Getting the ball back mid-way through the quarter, the Mohawks mounted their first scoring drive behind the running of Harrell, with Hayden Lemmons picking up a key fourth down. Harrell carried the ball down to the six, and on second and goal carried it to the one. Quarterback Trey Gossett got the call on third and goal, following his talented offensive line in for the score. Bret Fuller added the PAT, and the Mohawks took the 7-0 lead with 2:49 to go in the first half.

The lead was short-lived, though, as the hosts responded with a drive of their own as the first half drew to a close. Harper set-up the score with a long kickoff return, with quarterback Michael Weir hitting Michael Bounds for a touchdown pass with 1:34 to play in the second quarter. Weir and Bounds also hooked-up for the two-point conversion to make it 8-7, which would later prove to be the difference in the ballgame.

The Mohawks attempted to mount a drive of their own as the half ran-down, but came up just short with time expiring as they were unable to get a play off at the one yard line.

The third quarter was much like the first, as the Mohawk defense continued to rise to the occasion and stifle Bobcat drives forcing them to punt three times in a row. As for the Tribe's offense, they turned the ball over on downs twice, and had several plays negated by penalty flags.

"I thought the defense played tough--played hard all night long. Especially against a good balanced offense like they run," Harrell surmised. "They've got what we feel is the best running back in the conference, that boy runs hard and they've got a good quarterback that can throw hard."

Early in the fourth quarter the Bobcats took advantage of a timely pass interference call against Shaw, whistled as Lemmons intercepted a Weir pass, and scored on another Harper touchdown run. This time the extra point attempt was no good, and the hosts led 14-7.

Wasting no time, the Mohawks moved 80 yards downfield and deep into Bobcat territory and found paydirt with under three minutes to play.

"It was a little under three minutes in the ballgame, and we had three timeouts so I felt we should just go ahead and kick it and let the defense play since there was plenty of time left," Harrell said of the PAT attempt. "Worst case scenario we would go to overtime. But, Hayden mishandled the snap a little bit, and he took off, and there it was..."

Having trouble finding the handle on the PAT, Lemmons had the presence of mind to first run left, and then reversed his field and picked-up a wave of Mohawk blockers--coming up about two feet shy of the goal line.

"I felt like our defense did everything they could. The defense put us in a position to win, but we just couldn't get it done offensively," Harrell observed. "That 100 percent falls on me and we just need to buckle-up and get ready for Hoxie."

On paper the Mohawks enjoyed an offensive advantage, racking up 250 yards in total offense to 179 for the Bobcats. Shaw led the Tribe in rushing with 70 yards on 10 carries, Harrell finished with 67 yards on 12 carries, Justin Goding had 43 yards on 9 carries, John Jones had 35 yards on 10 totes, while Lemmons finished with 25 yards on 4 carries, Lane Buchannon had 10 yards on three carries and Gossett carried the ball 6 times, but had 0 yards net.

Harper led all rushers with 84 yards on 20 carries, as the talented senior was held to under 100 yards on the ground for the first time this season.

The killer for the Mohawks were the penalty yards, as they were whistled for 70 yards on 8 penalty flags. "We've had about 160 yards in penalties the last two games, and it has prevented us from winning games. We started out very disciplined, we weren't shooting ourselves in the foot, now we're getting these little five yard false start penalties and it shows we're not focused," Harrell added. "It's not disciplined, and that's disappointing and something we need to fix."

As for this week's opponents, although the Mustangs have suffered through a rough season Harrell notes they're not to be taken lightly. "Hoxie has been on a bit of a roll, and they're coming here so we need to get ready for those guys," he added. "We've still got a lot of chances to do great things this season, the season is not over by any means. But we need to take care of business with Hoxie."

Now at 6-2 overall, and 3-2 in conference, the Mohawks stand third behind first place Rivercrest and second place Newport. Manila holds down the fourth place spot and is also 3-2, but lost the tiebreaker to the Mohawks. Hoxie, Osceola and Walnut Ridge are all in contention for the fifth place spot, and a playoff spot next month.

The Mohawks will observe senior night activities for the class of 2017 prior to the contest, and will honor players Bret Fuller, Justin Goding and Trevon Allen. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Parker Field.

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