By Chase Hartsell
After a power issue delayed play for more than an hour, Arkadelphia provided a performance that was nothing short of electrifying on Friday night. In a game that served as their fourth win in a row, the Badgers defeated Bauxite in a 49-22 victory at “The Pit.”
The delay occurred due to the malfunction of an electrical transformer just over an hour before kickoff, causing the stadium to lose lighting for more than two hours. Bauxite proceeded with Senior Night festivities as planned, but natural darkness delayed further pregame festivities. Shortly after 8 p.m., an Entergy team restored power to Bauxite’s home stadium, and the night’s events proceeded accordingly.
Backed by a Senior Night crowd, the Miners (2-7, 0-6) capitalized on Arkadelphia’s fumble of the opening kickoff with a 18-yard touchdown and two-point conversion to take the lead with just 20 seconds gone in the contest. Moments later, Arkadelphia (6-3, 5-1) responded with a touchdown of their own to initiate a 21-0 scoring run. Bauxite bounced with another score late in the first quarter, cutting the Badgers’ lead to seven. In the second quarter, the Badgers played excellently on both sides of the ball, closing out the first with 28 unanswered points. With the Good Sportsman Rule going into effect at the beginning of the third quarter, the Miners added an additional touchdown and two-point conversion in the abbreviated second half, providing the game with its final score.
Showcasing the excellent hustle that he has displayed throughout the 2021 season, Braylon Bailey provided perhaps his best all-around performance of the season. On the offensive side of the ball, the senior tallied 141 total yards (85 receiving, 56 rushing) and two touchdowns. His first score served as Arkadelphia’s first points of the night, coming on a 48-yard run with 10:38 left in the first quarter. Less than three minutes later, Bailey stepped up on defense with a momentum-shifting sack that resulted in a turnover on downs. The senior added another touchdown on the very next drive, hauling in a screen pass from junior quarterback Donovan Whitten before taking it 60 yards to the end zone. The score gave the Badgers their first lead of the game, and they would never give it back.
After seeing a slight reduction in numbers against Ashdown, Landers Award Finalist Jaishon Davis rebounded with another stellar showing. Before exiting the game at halftime, the senior running back posted 185 total yards (161 rushing, 24 receiving) and four touchdowns, including a 67-yard sprint early in the second quarter.
Facing a unique blitz pattern from the Miners’ defense, quarterback Donovan Whitten responded with production. On the night, the junior completed 18 of his 25 passing attempts to accumulate 222 yards and two touchdowns.
Alex Loy tied Braylon Bailey for the team lead in receptions with five, turning those plays into 54 yards and a score. The senior’s sole touchdown came on a 20-yard pass from Whitten, with Loy running an efficient cross route before bringing in the ball in the end zone.
Junior Carter Babb continued to build on a breakout 2021 campaign, corralling three passes for 34 receiving yards.
Fellow junior Tripp Campbell contributed to the Badgers’ wide receiving corps with three catches that went for 25 yards.
In the second half, sophomore wideout LJ Brown made his mark with a 10-yard reception.
Going against an offense with significant size at skill positions, Arkadelphia’s defense disrupted the Miners’ momentum with consistency. After giving up a score on a shortened 18-yard field on the first drive of the game, Arkadelphia’s starting defense allowed just six points over the remainder of the first half. Led by the likes of junior Max Wilson and senior Landon Kuhn, the Badgers’ defensive line provided constant pressure up and recorded multiple sacks before the end of the first quarter. Arkadelphia’s secondary also stepped up with excellent coverage and multiple turnovers. With less than 20 seconds to go in the second quarter, junior Latonnieo Hughes deflected a pass that led to an interception by senior Kobe Buckley. In the second half, the Badgers’ second-string defense held their own against Bauxite’s first-team offense, allowing just eight points over the final 24 minutes of the contest. A highlight was a third-quarter interception by sophomore Nick Williams.
With the loss, Bauxite extends its losing streak to seven games (including six straight conference losses). Next week, the Miners will have one final chance to claim a conference victory when they travel to Nashville to face the Scrappers.
Following Friday night’s victory, the Badgers advance to 5-1 in conference play and 6-3 overall. With Ashdown’s loss to Robinson, Arkadelphia’s victory also gives them sole possession of second place in the conference standings.
Next Friday, Arkadelphia returns to Badger Stadium to face a fellow playoff contender in the form of Malvern. Both teams currently possess one of the top four spots in the 7-4A standings and, given that they are separated by one conference win, their showdown at All Care Field will have major playoff seeding implications. Kickoff between the Leopards and Badgers is set for 7:00 p.m. on November 5th, and the game will be available to stream live on arkadelphiabadgertv.com.