Football Cougars Set to Host Playoff Game
Friday night the Rector Cougars will host a playoff game at Paul Temerian Field, as the program has now come full-circle following the recent hiatus. The last time the boys in blue made the postseason was the fall of 2001, as they made the trip to Barton and came up short. After finishing third in conference this year the squad will host, as they will be visited by the Fordyce Redbugs—the three seeds from 2A-8.
Last Thursday night the Cougars closed out the regular season at McCrory, dropping a 20-15 decision to the Jaguars. But, all that was required for the Rector squad to maintain their spot as the three-seed, and the home playoff game, was a Salem win over Cross County—and the Greyhounds took care of business to nail down the top spot.
A handful of turnovers, and a key early injury, helped lead to the loss at McCrory as the potent Cougar passing game was hampered. As a result, the Jaguars got the win and earned themselves the fifth seed as a loss would have ended their playoff hopes. But, the payoff is dubious as the Jaguars will be forced to make the lengthy trip to Junction City and take on the top-seeded Dragons.
In the contest with McCrory, the host team got on the scoreboard first—wasting no time in the process.
“We dug a hole, you just can't give up the opening kickoff of a game and expect to win,” Coach David Hendrix said later. “But, we answered—came back and scored and took the lead 7-6.”
Late in the first quarter the Cougars lost the services of junior running back Max Ford, who left the game after rushing for 38 yards.
“We were a little banged up, and then Max (Ford) went out there late in the first quarter. So, we just had to match-up a little bit, and get back into our base offense and put some people in some different places,” Hendrix explained. “But, that's no excuse, we're all beat-up, but everybody is this time of year.”
Despite the set-back, the Cougars stayed in the ballgame and threatened several times, ending drives inside the Jaguar red zone. But, the host team held on down the stretch for the win, and the trip to extreme south Arkansas.
Leading the team in rushing on the night was senior Kale Hardin with 106 yards on 12 carries, and a touchdown, while fellow senior Evan Dooley had 53 yards on nine totes and Ford had 38 yards on five carries prior to leaving the contest. Among the players moving up from the junior high team for the remainder of the season was John Ford Hendrix, who contributed 43 yards rushing on six carries. Cougar quarterback Parker Bucy also passed for 102 yards in the loss.
The season which took them down the road to the playoffs began with a home non-conference game with Corning on Sept. 7. Showing strength on both sides of the football, the Cougars held-on for a 15-14 win over the 3A county rivals as they extended the Bobcats losing streak.
The following week the Cougars visited Piggott, dropping a 52-0 non-conference game to the Tribe in their annual rivalry game. They began conference play the following Friday, traveling to Lepanto and falling to EPC 32-19.
On Sept. 28, the league-leading Salem Greyhounds visited Rector and squeezed out a 32-6 conference win. But, the Cougars hung with the talented 'Hounds for much of the contest, and held their explosive offense in check for much of the game.
With renewed confidence, the boys in blue began a four game winning streak the following Friday as they hosted 3A Yellville-Summit and pounded their visitors 41-20. The momentum also carried over into the following week, as they returned to conference play and posted an impressive 30-8 win at Cross County. This victory would also play a role in the Cougar playoff chances, as it put them in position to finish third and earn the home playoff game.
The following Friday RHS marked senior night, hosting the Midland Mustangs. After recognizing the members of the class of 2019, the Cougars pounded their visitors on a rain-soaked field 38-0. The Friday before Halloween the Rector squad insured their post-season spot with a 20-0 win at Marked Tree, diminishing the importance of the McCrory game.
The Redbugs are 5-5 overall, 3-2 in conference, with a one point loss to Junction City and a 21-7 loss to Hampton—the top two seeds in their conference. They rely on their passing game much of the time, and have good team speed.
“They're really, really good. You know, we just happen to get matched up against the best conference in the state in double-A,” Coach Hendrix offered. “You know there are three of them down there that there's not much difference in, so we'll see how it goes.”
The Cougars made the playoffs in the fall of 2000 under Hendrix, and fell at Clarendon in the first round. The following fall Hendrix was off to Corning as an assistant, and Wade Williams took over the head coaching job. That fall he led the squad back to the playoffs, as they earned a spot in the post-season with a 27-6 win at Earle. The following week they visited Barton and ran into “a wall of Bears” in dropping a 45-14 decision.
With a win over the Redbugs, the Cougars will be slated to take on the winner of the Conway Christian-Lavaca game the following Friday. Kickoff Friday night is set for 7 p.m.