Mohawks Fall in Second Round at Prescott
"We just ran into a buzzsaw," Piggott Mohawk Head Football Coach Michael Harrell recalls of Friday night's 59-37 loss at Prescott in the second round of the 3A state playoffs. The Tribe had advanced to the second round for the first time in modern school history with a lopsided win at Cedar Ridge, but faced one of the top teams in the state in round two--and a long bus ride to boot.
"Going down to Prescott was rough, with that long drive and all, then you have to face a heck of a football team," Harrell surmised. "That early season loss to Walnut Ridge really hurt us. It cost us a conference championship and the chance to host a couple of playoff games at home."
The team had gotten a rousing send-off Friday morning at PHS, with a pep rally and small parade through town before heading south in their rented tour bus. But, at the end of the journey was a date with the 11-0 Curley Wolves on their home turf at Cummins Field.
With a large crowd on hand, including several hundred Mohawk faithful, the home team won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Gunner Shaw returned the opening kickoff to near the 30 for the Tribe, and appeared to be just one block shy of breaking a long one.
The Piggott offense then took the field, with John Jones breaking a 12 yard run on first down. The Tribe continued to move the football downfield, but the drive sputtered on fourth down as the home team took advantage of a favorable spot and took over on downs.
Prescott came out passing on first down, but Bret Fuller knocked the ball away for an incompletion. The Curley Wolves came right back to the same play, this time hitting Cameron Cox for a good gainer. This led to Prescott's first score, which came on a one yard run by Carlos Vanhook with 6:01 to go in the first quarter. Kade Honea added the PAT, one of six on the night, and the lead stood at 7-0.
On the following kickoff Shaw was dropped around the 17, and the Mohawks went back on offense for the second time. But, the Tribe put together a strong drive behind the running of Justin Goding, Cade Harrell and John Jones, moving to the Prescott 35 where they faced a fourth-and-two. This time fullback Lane Buchannon got the nod, but came up just shy of the marker, as the ball went over to the Curley Wolves with 2:18 to play in the first.
Prescott then began a long drive, mixing run and pass plays, as they moved it into Mohawk territory. As the first quarter drew to a close the Curley Wolves were facing a fourth-and-five situation.
On the first play of the second Prescott jumped offsides, and were faced with a fourth and nine. But, they converted with a strong run to the 11 yard line, and after another strong stand by the Piggott defense were forced to kick a field goal at the 11:15 mark of the second.
On the following possession the Mohawks began to have trouble moving the football, and were forced to punt. On the play the Curley Wolves burst through the Piggott line, blocked the punt and carried it to paydirt.
"That blocked punt was a huge when it came to momentum," Harrell noted. "We were able to move the ball on them, we had nearly 400 yards in offense. But, we came out slow, we've done that some this year and that's not been out of the ordinairy for us--for somebody to stop us a little in the first half. Because, what we do is wear people down, and the second half is where we really turn it on a lot."
The blocked punt also served to fire the home team up, and they responded accordingly.
"We had it within a one-score game, they got us on our only three-and-out of the night and when we went to punt--well they're just really athletic and they got through and blocked it, scoop and score and that opened the floodgates," Coach Harrell surmised.
The ensuing Mohawk drive saw the first Piggott score of the ballgame, as Jones capped it with a three yard run. But, the PAT attempt was no good and the host team enjoyed a 17-6 lead with 5:06 to go in the first half.
As the remainder of the second quarter played out the Curley Wolves found their offensive stride, scoring three more times before the half. The lone bright spot for the Mohawks came as Trey Gossett hit senior running back Goding on a 42 yard touchdown pass over the middle, with Jones adding the two-point conversion.
Facing a big deficit, the Mohawks kicked-off to begin the second half and got a defensive touchdown moments later. With Prescott pinned deep in their own territory the ball came loose in their endzone, and Mohawk tackle Nate Mallard covered it for a touchdown. This time Fuller added the PAT, as the Tribe cut the Prescott lead.
But, the talented home team wasn't finished by any stretch, as they added three more touchdowns in the third quarter from 44, 18 and 5 yards. Each time the PAT was good, as the home team flirted with the 60 point mark.
"In our confernce we see spread teams, and you can try to shut them down and stop the running game and be successful. You just can't do that against teams like Prescott," Harrell explained. "You shut their run game down and they're going to kill you with the pass, and so defensively we went down there and got out of the scheme we had used this season--trying to defend them all over the field, and they just lit us up."
But, to their credit the Mohawks never quit as they battled back to score two more times while the clock ran due to the mercy rule. The first came on a four yard run by Mason Tillman, who also added the two point conversion. The final score came on an eight yard run by Shaw, and this time Tillman also added the conversion to set the final score.
"You just have to give Prescott credit, they're a heck of a football program, heck of a team and a heck of a standard," Harrell said of the opponents. "That's where you want to be if you're trying to build a football program, that's the kind you want to build and they're going to be tough to handle down the road, that's why some folks have them picked to win it all."
On the night, the Mohawks had a respectable 387 yards in total offense, with 345 yards of those on the ground. Gossett was also 1 for 5 passing for 42 yards with one inteception and the touchdown strike to Goding. Jones led the Mohawks in rushing with 105 yards on 17 carries, Goding had 62 yards on 15 totes, Cade Harrell carried the ball 7 times for 52 yards, Tillman had 5 carries for 45, Buchannon had 8 carries for 43 yards and Shaw had 7 carries for 27 yards. Vanhook led all rushers with 130 yards on 13 carries for the Curley Wolves, and quarterback Derrick Flynn was 12 of 16 for 266 yards through the air.
"We were disappointed. Everyone was upset and crying after the game, but that's a good thing because they expected to win," Harrell said of his team. "And, that's the mentality we've sought in this program, Piggott is no longer happy to just be here, we're expecting to win and expecting to go to the third round of the playoffs. And, that's good, there's no way you can put a price on that."
Senior Bret Fuller led the team in tackles with 5, while Harrell, Tillman and Shaw had 3 each. Harrell and Mallard also had fumble recoveries for the Tribe.
"Our kids never quit, their character really showed and they kept battling and fighting back. It did give us a chance to get a lot of people into the game, and it was a huge and awesome experience for these guys," Harrell added of his young squad. "Cause, as you know we've only got three seniors, and Prescott had 18 seniors and their coach told me after the game "I don't want to see ya'll next year." He said we were the most physical team they had faced all year, by far, and he was very complimentary about how we have the program going in the right direction, and we just have to keep battling."
The contest was also the final game for the three Piggott seniors, Fuller, Goding and Trevon Allen. The coach had high praise for the class of 2017, and the impact this year will have on future teams.
"Bret, Justin and Trevon have been great leaders. Bret has probably played a different position every year of his football career, but I'm so proud of all of them," he offered with a smile. "They've set a new standard here at Piggott, and they've helped change the way we think and they've stuck with it. As a result good things are happening and Piggott football is alive and well."
With the loss the Tribe ends their campaign at 9-3 overall, earning their first second round playoff appearance in modern history. Coach Harrell, along with assistants Walter Rau and Shawn Hearn, now begin the process of preparing for next year's campaign with a new goal and a full roster of battle-hardened Mohawks with playoff experience.