By Chase Hartsell
“That is who we are!”
Those were the first words that Arkadelphia head coach Trey Schucker exclaimed to his team in the postgame huddle following Friday’s victory over Hot Springs. Just one week after suffering a home loss to Camden-Fairview, the Badgers rebounded with a commanding 43-27 road win over the Trojans at Joe Reese Field.
The Badgers led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and then exploded for four touchdowns in the last 7:25 of the second quarter, three of those coming in the last 2:36 before halftime, building the lead to 43-7 at the break.
Arkadelphia (1-1) opened the game with a precise touchdown pass, taking the early lead in hostile territory. Hot Springs (1-1), who defeated the Fountain Lake Cobras just a week ago by a score of 52-7, was able to match the score with one of their own. From there, though, the Badgers rattled off a 36-0 run to close out the first half. That scoring streak would prove to be enough to seal the victory for the Badgers.
In a night full of redemptive stories, perhaps none was greater than that of Jaishon Davis. After an injury forced him to leave last week’s game at halftime, the Badgers’ senior running back returned with a vengeance against Hot Springs. On just eight first-half carries, Davis managed to post 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns, with both trips to the endzone coming on runs of 30 yards or more. The latter of the two scores saw Davis take down four defenders before beating the Trojans’ secondary in a footrace to cap off a 67-yard touchdown run.
Davis wasn’t the only Badger with an impressive display of agility, either. Fresh off a 108-yard rushing performance against Camden Fairview, senior Braylon Bailey caught a pass from junior quarterback Donovan Whitten before running the length of the right sideline for a 77-yard touchdown reception. The senior finished the night with two catches for 82 yards.
Tripp Campbell was another large contributor in the Badgers’ air attack. The junior wide receiver ended the evening with four receptions that went for 47 yards and a touchdown. Campbell’s score was the first of the night for the Badgers, and it saw him tap his toes in the corner of the endzone to bring in an accurate 12-yard pass from Whitten on fourth and goal. Junior wide receiver and cornerback Latonnieo Hughes, who made his presence felt on both sides of the ball throughout the night, added an impressive 34-yard touchdown catch to open the second quarter.
Whitten also had quite the night for himself at Joe Reese Field. After facing a tough Cardinal defensive line in last week’s matchup, Arkadelphia’s quarterback put together a strong performance against another skilled 5A South opponent. On the night, he completed 10 passes on 15 attempts for 220 yards and three touchdowns, with each of the three scores coming on passes of more than 10 yards.
Perhaps the most impressive stat of the night was that the Badgers held Hot Springs to just seven points in the first half. This was no small feat, considering that the Trojans put up 52 points on 531 offensive yards against another 4A-7 opponent just one week prior.
Senior linebacker Landon Kuhn led the charge for the Badgers’ defense with four tackles (including three solo and 1.5 tackles for loss), a half sack, a fumble recovery, and a deflection that led to an interception. That interception was caught by Badger sophomore Kaden Young, who lived every defensive lineman’s dream as he returned the ball 37 yards for a touchdown. Junior Max Wilson also left a major impact, collecting a team-high five tackles (four solo), one sack, and two tackles for loss.
The Badgers’ 43-7 halftime lead invoked the sportsmanship rule, and coming out of the locker room, many young Badgers got a first taste of varsity football. Among the standouts was sophomore DeAngelo Buckley, who tallied 58 yards on 10 carries. Cade McBride, a sophomore quarterback for Arkadelphia, also received significant playing time. On the ground, McBride ran five times for 33 yards, including a drive-saving run on a late down in the second half. McBride also provided the Badgers with their only punt of the night, booting the ball 53 yards to the Trojans’ 9-yard line.
Coach Schucker was pleased with his team’s performance in response to early-season adversity.
“Last week didn’t meet our expectations,” said the second-year Badger head coach. “We knew we weren’t the team that we were last week. Tonight, we met our expectations [and] executed well in all aspects of the game.”
With the loss, Hot Springs fell to 1-1 on the year, continuing a home losing streak dating back to 2019. Next Friday, the Trojans will have another opportunity to end that streak when they host Mena in a non-conference bout.
Following their first win of the season, the Badgers face another 5A road test, this time in the form of the 2-0 Greenbrier Panthers who are coming off a big win at Batesville Friday night which the Panthers led at halftime 42-0. Kickoff is set for September 10th at 7:00 p.m. at Greenbrier High School and the game will be available to stream live on arkadelphiabadgertv.com.