Tribe Comes up Short at McGehee
For a school-record-setting third season in a row, the Piggott Mohawk football team took part in the postseason playoffs last Friday. After ending their seasons the past two years at Prescott, this year the Tribe drew an equally-tough opponent as they made the trip to McGehee and took on the Owls. And, despite being hampered by injuries, the Mohawks made a good showing in dropping the 24-14 decision.
On Tuesday, Mohawk Head Coach Michael Harrell reflected on the game, and the season, as he began the process of preparing for next year.
“It was just a muddy mess down there, but we were able to come out and score first. We hit Gunner (Shaw) on a screen pass and he took it about 60-something yards and we were playing well and hanging right in there with them,” he explained.
The two defensive units then took center stage, holding the other scoreless throughout the remainder of the first quarter and deep into the second before the host team would answer. McGehee's first score came on a 33 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Coryontae Smart to Kendarious Lewis with 5:25 left in the first half. Missing the two point conversion, the score stood knotted at 6-6.
The host squad would also add another tally before the break, with Smart hitting Dewayne Railey for a 45 yard touchdown. Once again the conversion was no-good.
“They came back and tied it up, and we ended up going into the half with the score 12-6 and we were feeling pretty good about it,” Harrell explained. “But, we lost Gunner in the second quarter to a concussion. But, people were really stepping-up, Sky (Wright) and Jacob (Scott) really stepped-up in the backfield and we were battling hard.”
Harrell also pointed to the play of senior Dylan Bellers, who had been sidelined in recent games, as key to the effort.
The potent Owls wasted little time adding to their total in third, with Joseph Easter scoring from 33 yards out. This time the conversion was good, setting the score at 18-6 with 10:24 left in the third quarter.
With Shaw out of the game, senior quarterback Trey Gossett took control and guided the team downfield, connecting with Matt Bowers on a 10 yard touchdown with 1:16 left in the third. Wright then added the conversion, and the Tribe had cut the lead to six.
“We found out later Matthew had broken his foot before the game, and didn't know it,” Harrell explained. “But, we taped him up and he toughed it out.”
Harrell also noted the similarities between the two teams, which was reflected on the scoreboard.
“The funny thing about the whole game is that the two teams were mirror images of each other. We both run the T a little bit, but of the five touchdowns scored four of them were passes,” he offered. “Since both teams had the box loaded-up, play-action passes got both of us. Both of our touchdowns were on passes, and two of their three were through the air.”
The host squad would answer the call one more time, setting the final score.
“We went into the fourth trailing 20-14 and felt pretty good about things,” he added. “They scored again in the fourth to pull ahead 26-14 and we just couldn't claw our way back into it.”
The touchdown came with 11:05 left in regulation on a 15 yard pass to Lewis, although the conversion was once-again no good.
“You gotta give them credit, they're a heck of a football team. They had 14 returning starters from last year's final four team,” Harrell noted of the Owls. “They've got 49 conference championships, seven state championships, and they're a beast in high school football in Arkansas. And, we were right there with them. We went toe-to-toe with them and I'm super proud of the boys.”
Gossett finished the game with 92 yards passing, and two touchdowns, on four of nine completions. He and Shaw also led the squad in rushing with 36 yards each, while Wright had 32 yards, Scott had 21 and Luke Boyd finished with eight. Easter led all rushers with 119 yards on seven carries, while Smart was three for seven passing for 59 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the loss, Harrell felt there were a lot of positive aspects to the game, and season.
“We lost a lot of starters last year, Cade (Harrell) and John (Jones) and them guys, so people weren't expecting a lot out of them,” he explained. “We had a lot of guys who stepped-up and played well.”
The coach also noted how well the team had dealt with a number of issues affecting the squad, including the death of teammate Gage Dodd last spring in a traffic accident.
“They faced a lot of adversity, like losing Gage earlier this year, but I'm super proud of the guys in the way they hung in there,” he added.
Key injuries also played a role in the season, as the Tribe continued to look to their bench for help.
“The injury bug got us a little this year, Drake (Featherston) has been hurt and tore his ACL, and Gunner hasn't been healthy most of the year and still lead class 3A in rushing,” he explained. “I think we really got a chance to see how good Gunner could be against Brookland, when he was 100 percent healthy.”
But, in spite of the challenges, the coach praised the team and how they dealt with that adversity.
“I was so proud of all of them. I can't say enough about Trey Gossett, the other night at McGehee he just battled and battled, willing his team. When Gunner went down he just put the team on his shoulders,” he offered with a smile. “And others, like Matthew Bowers, so many guys have stepped-up this year, guys like Luke Carpenter and Logan Allman has had a really solid year at end.”
Harrell also applauded the play of the underclassmen, as they await their turn.
“Our juniors have also had an impact, Sky Wright had a good year, Dalton James had a good one and Alex Tharp,” he added. “Our underclassmen have really grown-up and that's huge, our juniors stepped-up along with several of our sophomores like Tanner Dixon, Michael Parker and Brandon Seal. Those guys are really growing-up and starting to take the reins.”
For Harrell, ending the season with a record of 6-5 leaves something to be desired.
“Six wins for our mindset is not enough, not for me. When we walk on the field we expect to win, I don't care if we're playing the Dallas Cowboys we expect to win,” he added. “Six is not enough, but we felt we let that Walnut Ridge game slip away from us. We started the season with the loss to Westside, although they turned out to be a pretty good football team. Osceola is liable to win it all this year, Newport is a good team, and will likely be a final-four team. Our losses were to good football teams, but we're also a good football team.”
The coach also noted the success of this year's seniors.
“We're losing a great senior class, these guys won 22 games, the same as the guys before them—Cade and them won 22 games so that's a big deal,” he added. “It's not been done since the class of 1969.”
Now that the season is over, the coaching staff begins to look ahead to the fall of 2019.
“These sophomores and juniors coming up see what can be done, the goals are there and they know what they can do,” he observed. “Yesterday, after we watched the game film I let the seniors go and I told the sophomores and juniors—now it's our time. It's our time to go.”
As he prepares for another season at the helm, Harrell is very much aware of the challenge.
“Westside was young, they'll be good again, but I don't know a lot about Brookland. Rector gets a lot of their kids back, too,” he explained. “Walnut Ridge may be a bit down, Harrisburg was a good team that didn't make the playoffs. Hoxie will be good, and Osceola and Newport will just re-load. Yeah, it's not going to get any easier next year.”