By Chase Hartsell
In 2020, the Arkadelphia Badgers got Camden- Fairview’s season off to a sour start by defeating them in front of their home fans in the season opener. This year, the Cardinals returned the favor, defeating the Badgers 41-21 in the season opener for both teams at Badger Stadium.
Camden-Fairview took an early lead and forced Arkadelphia to play catch up most of the night. The Badgers had their chances to cut into and erase the deficit on a couple of occasions throughout the game, but the Cardinals were able to respond when the Badgers scored to maintain the cushion.
The game began with the Badgers receiving the opening kickoff. The two teams would then go on to trade three-and-outs. When the Cardinals punted the ball away after their first drive, though, Arkadelphia muffed the punt and Fairview recovered in Badger territory. From there, senior Cardinal running back Jacoriae Brown completed a long run to set up Fairview for an early touchdown. Holding a 6-0 lead, the Cardinals would add to their score moments later as sophomore Jabauree Lockhart cleanly stripped the ball away from Arkadelphia quarterback Donovan Whitten as he was preparing to deliver a pass and ran 60 yards for a touchdown. The successful PAT that followed gave Fairview a 13-0 lead.
Whitten, the Badgers’ junior quarterback, wouldn’t take long to respond to the turnover. Over the remainder of the second quarter, he connected with senior Alex Loy for two scores, helping Arkadelphia put up their first 14 points of the season. During that span, the Cardinals matched the Badgers’ offensive efforts, maintaining the lead and giving Fairview a 27-14 lead heading into halftime.
Already trailing coming out of the locker room, Arkadelphia’s issues were compounded when several key players suffered cramps and other light injuries down the stretch. This led to many Badgers receiving their first regular season playing time as a member of the varsity squad. On the other sideline, these occurrences allowed Fairview to capitalize on their own experience and roster depth. Heading into the final minutes of the third quarter, the Cardinals added a pair of scores to give them a 41-14 advantage.
Despite all of the setbacks, the Badgers continued to fight. A sequence of two long run plays from senior Braylon Bailey led to a Badger touchdown late in the third quarter and, for a moment, a comeback looked feasible. Early in the fourth quarter, Arkadelphia marched right down the field and seemed to be on the verge of bringing the game within two scores. Unfortunately for the Badgers, the Cardinals made an impressive defensive stand at the goal line, ending Arkadelphia’s drive just one yard short of a touchdown. From there, Fairview ran out the clock en route to a commanding 41-21 victory.
The Cardinals’ win included many highlight performances, including Jacoriae Brown. The senior running back ended the night with 14 rush attempts that went for 68 yards and three touchdowns. Jatoney McGhee, who worked in tandem with Brown, tallied 17 attempts for 82 rushing yards and one score. Martavius Thomas also contributed to the Cardinals’ ground efforts with 71 rushing yards on just ten attempts. In addition to his work in the run game, the Arkansas baseball commit completed a touchdown pass while also throwing one interception. Another statistical standout for Fairview was Bandon Copeland. The senior wideout collected four catches on the night, earning 114 receiving yards and a score in the process.
Camden Fairview improves to 1-0 on the year with Friday’s victory, avenging their loss to the Badgers a year ago. The Cardinals, who hope to contend for both a 5A South and 5A state title in 2021, will look to continue their winning ways as they host El Dorado next Thursday night in their own home opener.
Despite the score, there were still plenty of positive performances among the ranks of the Badgers. Among these standouts was Bailey who, aided by a strong second half, tallied 11 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown. Though heavily billed for his arm heading into the matchup, Whitten also impressed on the ground. Over the course of the game, he ran eight times for a total of 81 yards, including three runs of ten yards or more. Arkadelphia’s junior quarterback also showed signs of promise in the passing game. Though completions did not come easy for Whitten, he still managed to accumulate 182 yards through the air for two touchdowns and just one pick. Loy proved to be his primary target, with the senior ending the night with 94 yards and two touchdowns on just five catches. Junior Tripp Campbell was also notable in the receiving game, bringing in three catches for 40 yards.
With Friday night’s loss, the Badgers fall to 0-1, ending a home win streak dating back to 2019. The defeat also marks the first time that Arkadelphia has lost to a non-conference opponent since 2018.
Following the game, Arkadelphia head coach Trey Schucker emphasized that his team has two options moving forward: they can either “feel sorry for [themselves]” or they “can put [their] hard hat back on and get back to work.” Schucker, ever confident in his team, believes that they will choose the latter option. He noted, “If I know these kids, we’re going to get back to work and we’re going to get back on track next week.”
Next week, the Badgers will look to bounce back as they make the odyssey to Troy for a road matchup with the Hot Springs Trojans. That game begins next Friday, September 3rd, at 7:00 p.m., and it will be available for livestream on arkadelphiabadgertv.com.