By Chase Hartsell
Arkadelphia Football’s “Road to the Rock” is underway, with the Badgers advancing to the second round of the 4A State Playoffs with a 56-26 victory over the Clinton Yellowjackets at Badger Stadium on Friday night.
Within the first four minutes of the game, the Badgers (8-3, 6-1) recorded two scores with one offensive play and a defensive touchdown. From there, the Yellowjackets (5-6, 4-3) rebounded with 20 unanswered points, before the Badgers responded with a 42-6 scoring run of their own to close out the game.
Utilizing its ground-focused offense, Clinton controlled the game’s time of possession with 93 plays from scrimmage. Despite only running 39 plays, the Badgers’ offense made the most of its scoring opportunities, putting up a season-high point total.
In the final game of his career at AllCare Field, senior Jaishon Davis provided the Badger faithful with yet another memorable showing. On a night where he carried the ball only 12 times, the running back recorded 152 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Three of Davis’ scores came on runs of 27 yards or more, with Davis adding 9-yard and 12-yard touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter, respectively. He also hauled in two catches for a total of 35 receiving yards.
After missing a significant portion of the early season due to injury, Tripp Campbell made his presence felt in the first contest of the postseason. The junior wide receiver led the team with four receptions that went for 72 yards and two scores. The junior’s first touchdown saw him on the receiving end of a 13-yard pass from Donovan Whitten that occurred with 3:49 left in the second quarter. In the closing seconds of the first half, he would add a second score on a 42-yard pass from Whitten.
Having already led Arkadelphia to 42 points or more in seven of his first ten starts, quarterback Donovan Whitten helped his team post 50 points in a game for the first time in 2021. The junior completed nine of his 17 attempts through the air, collecting 146 passing yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he also accumulated 24 yards on six touches.
Braylon Bailey, also competing in his final home game, provided the kind of efficient performance that Badgers fans have come to expect. The senior ran the ball twice for 28 yards, adding 28 receiving yards on three catches. He was also a constant disruptor in the Badgers’ secondary.
Latonnieo Hughes rounded out the Badgers’ air attack with an 11-yard reception, five rushing yards, and strong open-field tackles in special teams coverage. Like Bailey, the junior was also a significant contributor on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite spending most of the contest on the field, Arkadelphia’s defense effectively limited Clinton’s dynamic ground game. Up front, the Badgers made consistent stops, with junior Marveon Berry creating points of his own on a 20-yard scoop and score early in the first quarter. Seniors Alex Turley and Landon Kuhn, junior Max Wilson, and sophomore KD Young also served as standouts in Arkadelphia’s defensive efforts.
As to what his team’s mindset for the remainder of the postseason will be, Arkadelphia head coach Trey Schucker made his message clear.
“We’ve got to be road warriors now,” he said to his team in a postgame speech.
With Friday night’s win, the Badgers improve to 8-3 on the year while extending their winning streak to six games. Next week, they will travel to Batesville Southside for their first road test of the postseason. The Southerners are 9-2 on the year, having punched their ticket to the second round with a 28-24 home victory over Star City. Kickoff between Arkadelphia and Southside is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, November 20, at Southerner Stadium. Tickets will be available for purchase online, and the game will also be streamed live on arkadelphiabadgertv.com.