By Chase Hartsell
This week, Arkadelphia is heading home with the Ouachita River Rumble belt and a No. 2 seed in the 4A State Playoffs after a 49-13 win over the Malvern Leopards at Badger Stadium on Friday night.
After Arkadelphia (7-3, 6-1) fumbled the opening kickoff, Malvern capitalized on good field position with a 29-yard touchdown pass that was followed by a missed PAT. Trailing 6-0 nothing, the Badgers bounced back with a score of their own less than two minutes later to take a 7-6 lead. Following a strong kickoff return, the Leopards capped off another short drive with a touchdown that gave them a six-point advantage. The Badgers went on to control momentum on both sides of the ball for the remainder of the contest, finishing the game on a 42-0 scoring run.
In his last regular season game at Badger Stadium, senior Alex Loy tipped his cap to the Senior Night crowd. On Friday night, he hauled in five catches that went for 114 yards and three scores. Loy’s first touchdown saw him snag a 14-yard pass from junior Donovan Whitten with 3:16 remaining in the first quarter. Later in the half, the senior wideout provided a highlight-worthy play when, during a jump ball on a deep pass from Whitten, Loy planted his feet and ripped the ball away from a Leopard defender before racing into the end zone for a 71-yard score. He went on to complete his hat trick in the fourth quarter with a 10-yard touchdown catch.
Also playing his final regular season game for the Badgers, senior running back Jaishon Davis provided the Arkadelphia faithful with another memorable performance. The Landers Award finalist posted 173 total yards (134 rushing, 39 receiving) and two scores, including a 14-yard touchdown run that saw him drag multiple Malvern defenders into the end zone. Running from power formation, Davis added a 1-yard score in the final three minutes of the third quarter.
In line with the theme of standout senior performances, Braylon Bailey also recorded notable numbers on Friday. By the final whistle, the senior contributed 129 total yards (93 receiving, 36 rushing) and a touchdown, which was the result of a 54-yard pass from Whitten.
Finishing his first regular season as starting quarterback for the Badgers, Donovan Whitten led his offense to another efficient outing. The junior completed 12 of his 23 attempts through the air for a total of 283 passing yards and four touchdowns. On the ground, Whitten added 69 yards and another score.
Latonnieo Hughes rounded out the Arkadelphia receiving corps with two receptions and 37 yards. The junior also provided excellent coverage in the Badgers’ secondary, breaking up multiple downfield passes.
Senior kicker Spencer Allen was perfect on the night, making all seven of his PAT attempts.
After giving up two touchdowns on shortened fields in the first quarter, Arkadelphia’s defense shut out Malvern for the remainder of the night. The Badgers’ defensive front, led by senior Landon Kuhn, ensured that the Leopards never settled into their air attack. As the rivalry matchup continued, Arkadelphia’s defensive line also slowed Malvern’s electric run game. The Badgers’ secondary, led by the tandem of Hughes and Bailey, gave Leopard quarterback Evan Meyers few options throughout the contest. In the closing moments of the fourth quarter, sophomore Nick Williams stepped up with his second interception in two weeks.
With the loss, Malvern falls to 5-5 overall and 4-3 in conference play, locking them into the 7-4A’s No. 4 seed in the 4A State Playoffs. Next week, they will face DeWitt out of the 8-4A in a first-round matchup.
Following Friday night’s victory, Arkadelphia extends its winning streak to five games, bringing its record to 7-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play. In addition to bringing back the Ouachita River Rumble belt to AHS for the first time since 2019, the Badgers also secured a No. 2 seed in this year’s 4A State Playoffs, which includes home-field advantage in the first round.
Next week, Arkadelphia will look to use that advantage when it hosts Clinton, the No. 4 seed out of the 2-4A. The Yellowjackets will enter next week’s contest with a 5-5 overall record and a 4-3 mark against conference opponents, including wins in three of their last five games. Kickoff between Arkadelphia and Clinton is set for 7:00 p.m. on Friday, November 12, and the game will be available to stream live on arkadelphiabadgertv.com.