Tribe Skins Bobcats for Rice Bowl Victory
For the fifth year in a row, the Piggott Mohawks dispatched with their cross-county rivals from Corning Thursday night and retained possession of the Rice Bowl Trophy. The Tribe, prepping for their upcoming first round playoff game, came out a bit tight in the early going of the senior night contest-but, were able to battle to a lead by halftime then cruised to a 55-14 final.
"You gotta give credit to those Corning kids, they came out ready to go. They could have laid down, they could have come out flat after losing like 23 games in a row, but they didn't," Mohawk Head Football Coach Michael Harrell said of the rivalry game. "They didn't come out flat, they came out ready and stuck it to us early."
Prior to the contest senior night festivities were held in which Mohawks Bret Fuller, Trevon Allen and Justin Goding were recognized, along with cheerleader Alex McDaniel and 12 members of the Marching Mohawk Band. Afterward, the Tribe got down to business as they sought their first 8-2 finish in 16 years.
Receiving the opening kickoff, the Mohawks moved the ball deep into Corning territory, only to turn it over on downs. "They stopped us down here early, which gave them life," Harrell noted Tuesday afternoon on the turf of Parker Field. "I think if we could have stuck it in right there it might have been different. And, they stopped us on a couple of other fourth downs in the first quarter, but we got things on track and got a lead by halftime--and in the second half the flood gates just opened up."
The Tribe got their first score with 4:25 left in the first quarter as Goding broke a touchdown run from the 31 yard line. Bret Fuller came on for the PAT attempt, but it was no good.
The remainder of the first quarter turned out to be a defensive battle, as neither unit would allow a score until early in the second. With 10:58 to go until intermission the Bobcats got a 2 yard touchdown run by Connor Daniels, and added the two-point conversion on a pass to Cole Haywood.
The Mohawks responded with their second touchdown at the 4:18 mark of the first quarter, as John Jones carried the ball in from seven yards out. Fullback Lane Buchannon added the two-point conversion, and the Mohawks enjoyed a 14-8 lead. Piggott scored again with just 21 second left in the first half, as Buchannon carried the ball in from the two yard line to make it 20-8. The two-point conversion pass attempt from quarterback Trey Gossett to Goding was no good, and the halftime score was set.
In the second half Harrell turned to his group of talented running backs, and continued to keep fresh legs in the contest. As a result Gunner Shaw scored two touchdowns in the third, from 26 and 5 yards out, with Buchannon adding a two-point conversion and Fuller kicking a PAT.
Corning answered with a 10 yard touchdown pass to Haywood with 2:22 to play in the third, but the pass attempt for the conversion was no good. On the Mohawk's following drive Shaw broke-off a 69 yard touchdown run, and Fuller's PAT was good as the rout was on.
With the clock running late, Goding added a 27 yard touchdown run on a reverse with 8:48 to play, and Fuller added another PAT. And, with the subs seeing the majority of the action, the Mohawks got their final touchdown from sophomore Jacob Scott, as he broke a 21 yard touchdown romp with 3:44 to go in the contest to set the final at 55-14.
"I was glad we had that kind of a game, and glad they came out ready," Harrell said of the contest. "They've got a lot of talent over there, we gave up our first 100 yard rusher of the year, (Gordo) Gonzalez ran hard and I think he had 105 yards of their 108 yards rushing on the game. But, you've gotta give those Corning kids credit, they've got nothing to hang their heads about, they came out and played hard--but, we're a pretty good football team."
Goding led all rushers with 144 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns, Shaw finished with 122 yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns, Jones carried the ball 10 times for 72 yards, Cade Harrell had 43 yards on 8 totes, Buchannon had 5 carries for 29 yards and a touchdown, Mason Tillman had one carry for 26, Scott carried the ball once for 21 yards and a touchdown, Hayden Lemmons had 1 carry for 5 yards and Gossett was 2 for 5 for 77 yards passing. Gonzalez got his 105 yards rushing on 21 carries for Corning in the loss. Total offense went to the Mohawks 540 to 161 yards.
Jones led the team in tackles with 9, Tillman finished with 7 tackles including two for a loss and a quarterback sack, Harrell and Bret Fuller had 5 each, Goding and Quentin Reeves had 4 each, Nate Mallard had 3 and a handful of Mohawks had 2 each in the win. Allen had a fumble caused and a fumble recovered, Lemmons caused a fumble and Reegan Mayberry recovered it for the Mohawks. Mayberry also had the honor of ending the game by dropping the Corning ballcarrier for a loss on the final play from scrimmage.
With the win the Mohawks extend their season record to 8-2, and 5-2 in conference play, firmly in third place behind Rivercrest and Newport. The Tribe also set a new season record for scoring, eclipsing the earlier total with their 55 points on Thursday, just enough to set the new standard. If they could have blanked the Bobcats they also stood a chance of setting the school record for points allowed in a season, a mark set by the 1990 team.
As for their goal of making the playoffs, that will be realized Friday night as the Tribe travels to Newark to take on the Cedar Ridge Timberwolves in the first round.
"We know Cedar Ridge pretty well, they've been in our conference the past two years and they beat us in overtime right here last year, and that really left a bad taste in our mouths," Harrell said of the first round matchup. "If there's a consolation prize for us finishing third, and playing a three-seed, it's Cedar Ridge. We want a shot at Cedar Ridge, and we want another shot at Walnut Ridge. And, if things work out we could see Walnut Ridge somewhere down the line, but we need to take care of Cedar Ridge first and take care of business."
In scouting the Mohawk's first round opponent Harrell is cautiously optimistic. "They're a good hard-nosed football team, they've got a junior class like ours that's pretty strong and it's going to be a good ballgame," he surmised.
Of great importance to the Mohawks is the fact they've made their way this deep into the season without suffering major injuries. "The Lord blessed us again and everyone is healthy. Going into the first week of the playoffs everybody's good, but, of course you've got a few aches and pains," he said of the squad. "But, we're healthy and we're still hungry and they're having fun--flying around and having fun, and that's a big deal. When we can get them out here and they're flying around like that and having fun playing football that's what it's all about."
Manila finished as the five seed, and has the dubious honor of traveling to Junction City for their first round game. A win would likely earn them a second round contest with Rivercrest, as they'll host Barton as the top seed. Walnut Ridge is the fourth seed, and visits Paris for their first round contest with the winner getting Fordyce, as they drew a bye. And, the Newport Greyhounds will be at home against Mayflower in their first round game, with the winner facing the winner of the Harding Academy-Lamar contest.