Sports

Badgers sink Southerners’ playoff hopes, advance to quarterfinals

By Chase Hartsell
The Arkadelphian

Arkadelphia’s “Road to the Rock” continued this week with a trip to northeast Arkansas for a showdown with Southside.  On Friday night, the Badgers ensured the continuation of their journey with a 51-20 victory over the Southerners at Southerner Stadium.

The Arkadelphia Badgers football team huddles up after Friday night’s win at Southside in the second round of the 4A State Playoffs. The Arkadelphian/Chase Hartsell

Negating Southside’s home-field advantage with strong support from the Arkadelphia faithful, the Badgers (9-3) took a 14-0 lead.  After the Southerners (9-3) put up six points of their own late in the first quarter, the Badgers initiated a 23-0 scoring run.  Southside would add seven more points as time expired in the first half, with Arkadelphia outscoring the Southerners 14-7 in the second half to provide the final result.

In his second postseason start at quarterback, junior Donovan Whitten provided perhaps his most efficient performance of 2021.  He completed 11 of his 12 passing attempts for 281 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions.  Whitten also added 40 yards on the ground with just five rushes.

Proving to be a threat on both sides of the ball, senior Braylon Bailey displayed defensive prowess while hauling in four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.  Bailey’s first score came on a 41-yard pass from Whitten with 6:17 left in the first quarter, while his second touchdown saw him secure a 6-yard in the flats before taking it across the goal line.  Additionally, the senior paced the team with 86 rushing yards on six carries.

Providing the same excellent coverage that he has provided throughout the season, junior Latonnieo Hughes also led the Badgers in receiving yards on Friday night.  He corralled two passes for a total of 99 yards and one touchdown, which occurred when Hughes caught a screen pass from Whitten and ran it 78 yards to the end zone.

Senior running back Jaishon Davis continued to produce significant numbers with Friday’s contest against the Southerners.  The Landers Award finalist tallied ten carries for 76 yards and two touchdowns, which were both the results of runs from power formation near the goal line.  Through the air, Davis collected two catches for 24 yards.  He also recorded significant tackles and pass deflections on defense.

Junior Tripp Campbell contributed to the Badgers’ receiving corps with two receptions that went for 24 yards and a touchdown, with the wideout’s sole score being the result of a 13-yard pass from Whitten.

Though he only made one catch on the night, Alex Loy made the most of his single reception.  Sneaking past Southside’s secondary, the senior wide receiver ran to the end zone uncovered before securing a 30-yard touchdown pass from Whitten.

On defense, Arkadelphia managed to become just the third team to limit Southside to 20 points or less in a single game this season. Led by senior Landon Kuhn, junior Marveon Berry, sophomore KD Young, and the aforementioned Davis, the Badgers’ defensive front successfully limited Southside’s ground attack out of the Gun T offense.  Additionally, freshman Nykkisson Wimberly recorded significant tackles at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield while filling in for an injury for most of the contest.  In the secondary, the likes of Bailey and Hughes provided typical disruption while senior Ollie Ware stepped up with a fourth-down interception on the Southerners’ side of the field.

After being encouraged in last week’s postgame speech to be “road warriors” for the remainder of the playoffs, Trey Schucker’s players impressed him with their response to their first postseason test away from Badger Stadium.

“[The game experience] was phenomenal,” the Arkadelphia head coach said in a postgame interview.  “I thought our kids travelled really, really well.  They handled the whole process of the day well.”

With the win, the Badgers improve their record to 9-3 overall in 2021.  Next week, Arkadelphia will make the two-hour drive to Crossett for a 4A quarterfinal matchup with the Eagles.  Currently touting a 9-3 record as well, Crossett punched its own ticket to the next round with an impressive 44-20 road victory at Ozark on Friday night.  Kickoff between the Badgers and the Eagles is set for Friday, November 26, at 7:00 p.m. at Eagle Stadium, and the game will be streamed live on arkadelphiabadgertv.com.

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