Football Cougars Host Home Playoff Game
History was made Friday night at Paul Temerian Field in Rector, as the football Cougars hosted a playoff game for the first time in program history. The return to the postseason, and the contest with the Fordyce Redbugs, brought an end to the most successful campaign for the boys in blue since the program returned from a hiatus—and set the stage for things to come for the RHS football program.
The Cougars had advanced to the home contest by finishing third in conference, as they drew a match-up with the talented third place finishers from 2A-8. But, the rigors of the regular season with a 19-man roster took its toll on the banged-up Rector squad, as they fell 43-7 to end their season.
With several key injuries hampering several starters, the Rector squad put up a good battle against a very good Fordyce team. For Coach David Hendrix there was some disappointment, but he noted later he was pleased to see the team come together as the season progressed.
“We started out a little slow, we had a few of our young kids playing,” he said of the loss. “Actually, I think the Yellville-Summit game was the game where we finally took off and started playing like we're capable of playing. You know, we had a good run and I just hate to end the season beat-up like we were—with several players out, but that's football.”
With a large crowd on hand, the two teams took to the field on a cold and damp night. Winning the coin toss, the Redbugs chose to take the opening kickoff. Utilizing a mix of runs and passes, they burned up nearly half the first quarter on their opening drive, scoring on a three yard quarterback keeper by Janeim Brown with just under seven minutes to play in the first. Dearius Sledge added the two point conversion, and the visitors took an 8-0 lead.
The following Rector drive went quickly, with converted lineman Jason Braman in the backfield with seniors Evan Dooley and Kale Hardin due to an injury to Max Ford during the McCrory game. Despite several strong runs the drive stumbled due to the penalty flag, and a pair of incomplete passes, leading to the Rector punt.
On the following drive the Cougar defense showed its muscle, stuffing the Redbugs on several plays. The threat ended as Fordyce fumbled the football with 4:26 left in the first quarter, and Hardin recovered.
But, the Redbug defense was also up to the task as they held the Cougars in check, forcing a Clayton Morgan punt with 2:34 left in the first. Fordyce then put together another scoring drive, culminating in a 48 yard touchdown pass from Brown to Kalob Jones early in the second quarter. This time the two point conversion attempt was no good, and the score stood at 14-0.
The following drive was once-again hampered by the Redbug defense, forcing Clayton to again punt the ball away. Wasting no time, Fordyce moved deep into Cougar territory on a long pass from Brown to Jones. They extended the lead moments later as Brown carried it in from the two. Adding the conversion on a pass completion to Tray Hudson, the visitors moved to 22-0 with 6:38 to play in the first half.
Getting the ball back just a bit later, Fordyce added another touchdown on a 62 yard catch and run by Jones. Treshawn Allen added the PAT to make it a 29-0 score with 4:27 left in the first half.
The Cougars then began to try to put together a drive, but the threat ended as Brown picked-off a Parker Bucy pass. This led to the Redbugs final touchdown of the first half, as Brown hit Sledge to extend the lead to 36-0
Coming out of the locker room to begin the third quarter, the Cougars would get the ball first and would mount their only scoring drive of the night. With strong running by Hardin, Dooley and Braman the Rector offense moved downfield. Hardin then capped the drive with a four yard touchdown run with 5:52 left in the third. Connor Austin, kicking for the injured Ford, then added the PAT to make it 36-7.
But, Fordyce would add one more touchdown as the third quarter drew to a close to set the final score. It came on a 32 yard catch and run by Quentin McCoy. Once again adding the PAT, the final score was set.
Throughout the fourth quarter, with the clock running, the two teams played out the remainder near the middle of the field with neither able to gain an advantage.
Despite the loss, Hendrix had high praise for the team as they battled through a tough conference schedule and took on one of the top teams in the state.
“Our conference is always tough, any night they're gonna play you hard, but that's just the way it is,” he offered. “But, I felt our kids really rose to the occasion and played well.”
With Ford limited, and other players banged up, Hendrix added that he felt the difference in the ballgame was the play of the Fordyce defenders.
“Yeah, we hung with them, but their defense was just so good, and so fast,” he added. “Instead of getting seven or eight yards on a play, we were getting two or three, just because they were closing the gap on us so quick.”
He also pointed to the play of the Redbug signal caller as being a difference-maker.
“Their quarterback just bought time, and bought time, and bought time,” he observed. “There were several times they had a big play for a receiver that wasn't the fault of our defensive backs as much as it was the fact they had so much time to throw. And, we can't cover them that long.”
But, Hendrix also had words of praise for his team as they continued to improve as the season progressed, and the senior leadership which made it possible.
“Our seniors, they've really been through it—it would have been so easy for them to just give it up but they fought through it,” he concluded. “That was our goal, to get into the playoffs, and they did exactly what I wanted them to do. I am so proud of them.”
With the loss the Cougars end their season with a record of 5-5 overall, a third place finish in conference and the home playoff game to their credit. Meanwhile, the Redbugs moved to 8-3 overall, as they'll make the trip to Conway Friday night for a second round game with Conway Christian (9-2). Last week the Eagles hosted Lavaca and posted a 40-6 win over the Golden Arrows.