Tribe Tames Bobcats in Rice Bowl Contest

Thursday, November 9, 2017
Following Friday night's Rice Bowl Game victory at Corning the senior members of the Mohawks posed with the trophy, which they have retained throughout their high school playing careers. Pictured are, from left: Front-Reegan Mayberry, Hayden Lemmons, Cade Harrell and Devin Riley. Back-Alex Gibson, Cory Fuller, Nate Mallard, Elijah Bellers, Quentin Reeves, Spencer Hardin and John Jones.
TD photo/Frank Staples

The Piggott Mohawks closed out the regular season Thursday night at Corning by adding another loss to the Bobcat's 32-game slide, beating their cross-county rivals with ease 42-0. Friday night they'll visit the Prescott Curleywolves for the second year in a row in the first round of the 3A state football playoffs with revenge on their minds.

Playing on a water-soaked field, the Tribe jumped on the hapless 'Cats early as John Jones covered his own on-side kick, giving them first shot from their own 46. Jones then followed backfield-mate Cade Harrell for five yards on first down, but quarterback Trey Gossett had trouble holding on to the wet football on second down and lost yards. Junior RB Gunner Shaw got a chunk of it back, but Harrell was short on fourth and three. Losing his helmet in the melee, the senior was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and the ball went over on downs.

The Bobcats then put together their most successful drive of the ballgame, although they were hampered by the penalty flag as well. Taking advantage of a halfback pass, they moved deep into Piggott territory only to turn it over on downs on an incomplete pass.

Trey Gossett uses the straight-arm to elude Corning's Clay Smith in action last Thursday evening.
TD photo/Tim Blair

This time the Mohawk offense wasted no time, as Jones broke a 75 yard touchdown run on the first play of the drive to make it 6-0. Mason Tillman added the two point conversion, strolling in virtually untouched, and the rout was on with just under seven minutes to go in the first quarter.

From that point on it was all Mohawks, as they added another touchdown by Harrell on a 47 yard run less than two minutes later, but this time the two point conversion attempt by Tillman was no good.

Gossett scored from a yard out on the first play of the second quarter, but once again the Tribe failed to convert.

Less than two minutes later the Mohawks would ring-up the Bobcats again as Shaw scored the first of back-to-back tallies, this one from 26 yards out. Gossett nailed a wide-open Dylan Bellers with a pass for the two point conversion. Moments later Shaw would strike again, capping a short drive with 5:27 to go in the first half with an 18 yard run to paydirt. Notching the two point conversion attempt this time was senior Hayden Lemmons, who also had a strong game on defense.

With the clock running by way of the mercy rule, the Tribe would score once more in the third as Jacob Scott ran it in from the four yard line. Coach Michael Harrell then instructed his offense to take a knee on the two point conversion attempt, setting the final score.

“We got a little bit of a tune-up, the starters were in there until we got to 36 points, and I think that was about 5:23 left in the second quarter. So they got a bit of a tuneup,” Coach Harrell said later. “We've beat Corning nine out of the last 10 years, and the boys were excited about that. And, then we got to get the JV team in there and I was really proud of the young guys. We mixed in some of our freshmen with some of our sophomores and they looked good. They were a good looking bunch, and they've really worked hard.”

The Mohawks had all 315 of their total yards on the ground, with 10 different players touching the football. Jones led the way with 80 yards on just two carries, Shaw had 68 on six totes and Harrell had 63 yards on five carries and the trio accounted for four of the Tribe's touchdowns on the night.

The Mohawk offense limited Corning to 123 total yards, with 104 coming through the air and only nine yards net in rushing. Top rusher was Garrett Scrogin with eight yards. As for the passing game, quarterback Clay Smith was 12 for 30 and connected with five different receivers in the shut-out.

As usual, the talented linebackers of the Mohawks led the team in tackles on the night as both Harrell and Jones had 10, Tillman had seven, Lemmons had six and Nate Mallard, Shaw and Elijah Bellers finished with four each seeing limited playing time.

“You know, one of the things I was really proud of Thursday night was something we had talked about the week before, about passing the torch. You know, with our older guys their time is getting toward the end, and when we put in the younger guys they were so encouraging,” he added. “At halftime it was like I had 18 coaches, they were talking to those guys and telling them, here's what you need to do here, and this is how this guys is playing, and really coaching those boys up.”

Harrell also applauded his older players for their continued guidance, as the contest wound down.

“And, when they were on the sideline they were so encouraging, and hollering for those guys out there, and you could just see the JV team's confidence growing,” We planted some seeds that really has me excited about the future.”

With a playoff contest looming, Harrell also noted he had learned from earlier experiences how best to handle his starters.

“I'm learning every day, I can see now where I probably mishandled a few things during the season especially the Rector game. At the time I felt like I was doing the right thing, moving people in and out and subbing and all.”

In the win over the other county rivals, Harrell had played some of his starters into the second half, playing a part in the lopsided decision.

“At Corning I had those freshmen to turn to. When we sub our sophomores with our juniors there's not much difference, but mixing those freshmen with our sophomores you could tell the difference,” he offered. “Although it was still 42-0, we could have made it whatever score we wanted. I was just really proud of our upperclassmen, and I think our program planted some good seeds for the future against Corning.”

With the win the Tribe ends the regular season at 7-3, fourth in 3A-3, while the Bobcats extended their losing streak another full season. For the record, the last time Corning won a varsity football game was Halloween night of 2014 when they beat Manila 40-26 on the road. The following week the Mohawks beat them 22-20 at Parker Field, and they haven't enjoyed success since.

But, for the Mohawks it's a return engagement with the Curleywolves.

“We've been breaking down film on them, and watching last year's game and you may think I sound crazy but we could have been up by two touchdowns on Prescott by halftime. We really moved the ball well,” Harrell explains. “It was a nine point game with 1:20 to go in the first half last year, and we had two turnovers in that final 1:20 and they scored two touchdowns, 16 points, and just blew the game up.”

Some may think Prescott would be the last team the Tribe would want to face, but Harrell thinks otherwise. “We're excited to go back down to Prescott. We've been talking about Prescott all winter long. It was “prepare like you're playing Prescott” and here we are,” he adds. “These guys went to Little Rock two years ago to watch Rivercrest play for a state championship. Rivercrest went into the playoffs at 7-3 and had lost to Manila earlier in the season. But they went to play for a state championship in War Memorial Stadium. That's been the focus for these guys, when we're hitting on all cylinders we're as good as anybody around-when we're hitting on all cylinders.”

In preparation for the road contest the Tribe has maintained their usual schedule for the most part, although they'll leave at noon on Thursday and spend the night on the road.

“We came in last Friday and treated it like a Monday, we broke down the film from Corning and started getting ready for Prescott. Of course, they're still Prescott and they are the defending state champions,” Harrell offered. “They went to Glen Rose and lost, and they're 9-1, but in that game they turned by ball over five times or they would be 10-0. Just like our game at Hoxie, you ain't gonna turn the ball over five times and win.”

With a talented quarterback, and good size along the defensive line, the Mohawks know they'll need to bring their A game.

“We've got our hands full, but we've got a good football team, too,” he adds. “The guys believe in what they're doing, and we're healthy. We're about as healthy as we've been since the Rector game, and we've got Gunner (Shaw) back at 100 percent--and we're rolling right now.”

Adding to their drive is the memory of last year's loss, the only one of three yet to be avenged.

“These guys have never been beat by the same team two years in a row, and our revenge tour of 2017 is going down to Prescott,” the coach adds. “We beat them we go to Osceola, so we're excited.”

In summing up the importance of the week, Harrell points to some sage advice from his coaching mentor. “We're happy to be in the playoffs, Coach (Don) Campbell told me last year that it's addicting-playoff football is addicting. It's just addicting, it's just a different creature. And, once your kids, your community and your program expect to be there each year things change.”

As he has preached to his kids, alumni and supporters over the course of his short tenure, Harrell and his staff of Walter Rau and Shawn Hearn are looking to the future.

“We didn't plan this as a one-or-two year deal, we're in this for the long haul,” Harrell surmises. “I talked to Coach Tom Sears at Hoxie the other day, and he's been there 19 years. I can only imagine what this program will look like in 19 years. I'm really excited about the future of Piggott Mohawk football, we're in this for the long run.”

A send-off for the football team is scheduled for noon on Thursday, and kickoff at Prescott is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday night.

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