Tribe Trims Cougars in Rivalry Contest
The long-time football rivalry between the Piggott Mohawks and the Rector Cougars lived again Friday night at Temerian Field, as the two squads met to wrap-up non-conference play. This year's showdown offered a stark contrast for the near-capacity crowd, as the Mohawks handed the host Cougars a lopsided 70-0 loss.
Coming off a 66-8 win over Portageville the previous week, the Mohawks continue to iron out the wrinkles in their game plan and show improvement. Friday night they also debuted place kicker Brier Staples, who continually dropped the ball inside the 15 yard line on kickoffs, and was four-for-six on PAT attempts. Staples, who is relatively new to the football program, is the son of former Mohawk standout Joey Staples.
Following the pomp and circumstance of the pre-game festivities, which included a game ball drop by Survival Flight, the two teams got down to business.
The Cougars got first shot at the football, with Staples kicking off to Conly Lockhart to begin the contest. He returned the ball to the 26, where he was tackled hard by Cade Harrell of the Mohawks, setting the tone for the night. On the first play from scrimmage quarterback Hunter McNeely dropped back to pass, and was picked-off by Mohawk linebacker John Jones, who returned it to the 19.
Moments later Piggott quarterback Trey Gossett scored the first touchdown of the evening from a yard out, with Staples adding the PAT to make it 7-0.
Stifling the Cougar offense, the Tribe continued to take advantage of the situation as they scored four more times in the first quarter. Lane Buchannon scored from four yards out, although Staples' kick was no good, followed by a 19 year touchdown run by Jones at the 4:25 mark. Once again the run was not good for the two point conversion. Late in the quarter Gunner Shaw would score the fourth tally for the Tribe, breaking through defenders for a 45 yard scamper. This time Harrell added the two point conversion, as the lead was extended to 27-0.
Substituting freely, the visitors would score three more times in the second quarter, with Hayden Lemmons scoring on a one yard touchdown run and on a 30 yard interception as well. The Tribe also got a one yard touchdown from Jacob Scott. Harrell added another two point conversion in the third, and Staples added two more PAT, as the lead was extended to 63-0 by the end of the third.
Early in the fourth the Mohawks would score once more, as Mason Tillman carried it in from 19 yards out, but Staples' kick was no good and the final score was set.
“All I can take away from it is that they're a good football team, and they played well,” Rector Coach David Hendrix said of the loss. “We didn't play near as capable as we can, seemed like we got shell-shocked there early. Threw a couple of interceptions and fumbled a punt, and that just killed us.”
As for his counterpart, Coach Harrell noted he took no pleasure from the win.
“I just hated it, I don't see a lot of good coming out of that game,” he explained. “It doesn't help us going forward, and that's our main concern.”
Prior to the game Harrell had noted the Mohawks were preparing for Rector like “we were playing Prescott in War Memorial Stadium,” and the focus was evident.
“We came out ready and that's how we played, from the opening kick-off,” Harrell added. “And, from the get-go we were bigger, faster, stronger and more physical and more aggressive. Like I've said before, this is a “danged if I do, danged if I don't game” and there's not a lot of good that can come out of it. But we did execute well.”
With the sizable early lead Harrell was also able to rest his starters, and give the backups some deserved plays.
“We had four guys who carried the ball who don't usually get to carry it in practice,” he explained.
On the game a total of 14 Mohawks carried the football, with the starters only getting 13 carries on the night.
For Coach Hendrix, it's all a part of the process it takes for young players to mature into winners. He also pointed to his own preparation as key. “I didn't have us ready, and I'll take the blame. That one is on me, I didn't have us ready and I thought we were but we weren't,” Hendrix offered. “We've still gotta' do some growing up and just keep going. You can say these young guys are getting thrown into the fire, but that's just an excuse.”
Shaw led all rushers on the night with 72 yards on three carries while Lemmons had 65 yards on four carries for the winners. Max Ford paced the Cougar offense with 14 tough yards on eight carries while Evan Dooley also posted positive numbers with four yards on four carries. The other Rector running backs were all at a deficit, as they netted only one yard on the ground. Meanwhile, McNeely added another 40 yards through the air, with two receptions by Ford and another by Lockhart. He was also picked-off three times, with interceptions by Jones, Lemmons and Quentin Reeves.
Luckily, for the Cougars they're not likely to see another team like the Mohawks this season.
“I told them they wouldn't see anybody else that physical, they're very physical,” Hendrix concluded. “But, of course we will see some speed that will be faster than that by far.”
He added that he felt the scoreboard didn't accurately tell the story,
“They're a better football team than us, but they're not that much better,” he surmised. “We just didn't play up to our capabilities.”
On the plus side, neither team sustained any serious injuries. For the Mohawks, Dylan Bellers aggravated a shoulder injury and will be sidelined this week, while starting tackle Devin Riley returns after a week one injury.
With the Rector game behind them, the Mohawks are looking ahead to Friday night's conference opener at Parker Field as the Osceola Seminoles visit for homecoming.
“We had an excellent film session, breaking down film on Osceola on both sides of the football,” Coach Harrell said of the preparation. “Then we went down to the field and had a great workout. They are super focused, thanks to the maturity level of these guys. They know the pre-season is over and the season starts now. They're looking forward to the challenge, confident in their skills and know what they can do.”
Last year the Mohawks began their playoff run with a win at Osceola, and although this year's game will be played at home Harrell knows his team will have their hands full.
“This is not the Osceola team of the last few years, Coach Robert Hooks in the six months he's been there he's changed the culture 360 degrees. They are a force to be reckoned with, definitely a top ten program if not higher,” Harrell added. “If you like football, some of the best 3A games in the state are going to be played the next three weeks at Parker Field.
The royalty assembly for Mohawk homecoming will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Friday in the new gym; the parade is set for 2 p.m.; tailgating and the chili cook-off will be going on beginning around 5 and pre-game royalty ceremony is set for 6. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
As for the Cougars, they'll have this week off due to Kipp-Blytheville canceling their season. They'll return to action on Friday, Sept. 29, as they host the Salem Greyhounds at Temerian Field.