By CHRIS BABB | For The Arkadelphian
The second verse — or in this case, round — was the same as the first as a quick start propelled the Arkadelphia Badgers to a 52-21 win over the Ozark Hillbillies in the second round of the 4A State Playoffs Friday night on AllCare Field at Badger Stadium.
Arkadelphia (10-0) scored touchdowns on five of its seven first-half possessions and held Ozark (8-4) to one touchdown in the first half which came on a 96-yard kickoff return in the first quarter from Eli Masingale. The Badgers led 38-7 at halftime and put the game in the AAA Sportsmanship Rule timing scenario in the third quarter.
The Badgers scored on their first play from scrimmage in last week’s win over Clinton, but it took just a little bit longer this week. After being forced to punt on the opening drive of the game, Arkadelphia relied on a defense that continued its excellent play to give the ball back to the Badgers.
After the Hillbillies had to punt on their first possession, the Arkadelphia offense started clicking and it took only three plays for the Badgers to find the end zone.
Sophomore Kyle Reed ran for 22 yards on first down from the Ozark 44 yard-line and after an incompletion, senior quarterback Donovan Whitten found senior receiver Carter Babb on a post route that resulted in a 34-yard touchdown pass.
It was the first of five first-half touchdowns for Whitten, who has thrown 36 touchdown passes in 10 games during the season, with some of those games only seeing the first-team offense play in the first half.
The Badger defense forced another punt on the next drive and the Badgers were set up with a short field after a dead ball penalty on the Hillbillies after the punt.
Arkadelphia ended the drive with a touchdown to make it 14-0, but it wasn’t as quick of a strike as the first drive. Arkadelphia methodically chipped away at the Ozark defense and put themselves in a good situation with a first-and-goal situation, but the Hillbilly defense put together three stops to put the Badgers at fourth-and-goal from the Hilbilly two yard-line.
After getting stuffed on a hand-off in the heavy set with two blocking backs on third down, the Badgers used a play-action pass from Whitten who found senior receiver Tripp Campbell all alone in the back corner of the end zone on a crossing route from the left side with less than a minute to go on the first quarter.
Ozark responded nicely with Masingale’s kickoff return, but it put the Hillbilly defense back on the field quickly.
After a 16-yard carry from junior running back DeAngelo Buckley put the ball in Hillbilly territory, the Badgers took advantage of the field position to add another score.
Whitten hit Campbell on a check-down route for a 20-yard pickup after Campbell eluded two Ozark tackles, giving the Badgers another first-and-goal situation.
Whitten ran to the five and on second down, Whitten found Babb on an out pattern and Babb found the end zone for his second touchdown on the night. Broc Currey’s third extra point gave the Badgers a two-score lead at 21-7 and put control of the game back on the home side of the stadium.
The Badger defense made sure that momentum wouldn’t return to the visitors early on the ensuing possession.
Senior defensive back Rocky Hughes stripped the ball from Masingale after breaking through into the defensive secondary and junior linebacker Cade McBride recovered the fumble, giving Arkadelphia the ball at the Hillbilly 32 yard-line.
With 7:46 left in the second quarter, senior receiver LaTonnieo Hughes found a hole behind the Hillbilly secondary on the left side and Whitten registered his fourth touchdown pass on the night, which was the first of the night and 12th of the season for Hughes, giving Arkadelphia a 28-7 lead.
The Badgers added another touchdown in the first half when Whitten hit Campbell in traffic at the Hillbilly one yard-line and Campbell bounced off a tackle and fell into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown reception.
After yet another stop by the Badger defense, Arkadelphia was able to use the two-minute drill to set up another scoring opportunity. After the Badgers had a touchdown called back for a penalty with 24 seconds remaining in the quarter, they were set up with a first down and 20 situation from the Ozark 46 yard-line.
Whitten scrambled for eight and then rolled to his right and found sophomore JaQuavus Purifoy in the middle of the field to get the Badgers to the Ozark 11 yard-line with five seconds left.
Currey came on and nailed the 27-yard field goal attempt as time expired for the 38-7 halftime lead.
Ozark opened the scoring in the second half with a two-yard keeper from Kobe Willbanks on the direct snap that was set up by a 31-yard pass on fourth down and 11.
The score cut the Badger lead to 24 points at 38-14, but again the Badgers responded with a touchdown to thwart the Ozark run and essentially sealing the game after a failed onside kick attempt by the Hillbillies.
The short field gave the Badgers a quick score opportunity and a big 28-yard pass and catch from Whitten to Campbell set the Badgers up again. Campbell hauled in a nicely-placed pass from Whitten over his left shoulder and was able to tap both feet in bounds, setting up Arkadelphia with a first-and-goal from the Ozark one yard-line. Reed’s plunge and Currey’s extra point made the score 45-14 in favor of the Badgers.
Arkadelphia added one more score with 3:15 left in the third quarter when Reed took a handoff around the right side and scored on a 38-yard run.
The Badger defense held Ozark to 166 total yards of offense on the night including only 79 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Masingale, who came into the game having eclipsed the 3,000-yard career rushing mark earlier this season, managed only 27 yards on nine carries. The senior did display his tremendous speed on two kick returns, including the 96-yard return in the first quarter.
The Badger offense totaled 460 yards of offense: 277 through the air and 183 on the ground. Whitten completed 21 of 31 passes for 261 yards and five touchdowns.
The Badger defense was led in tackles by junior linebacker Chase Vantilborg and junior defensive back Nick Williams with eight tackles each.
The senior quarterback spread the ball around again as seven different players caught passes. Purifoy caught six passes for 55 yards while Babb and Campbell each caught five passes. Campbell led the receiving corps in yards with 88 yards receiving to go with his two touchdowns. Babb’s five catches went for 63 yards and two scores. Hughes caught four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Reed ran 10 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Buckley and Purifoy each had 40 yards rushing.
The Badgers will play on the Friday after Thanksgiving for the eighth time in the last nine seasons when they host the Rivercrest Colts in the 4A State Quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Badger Stadium.
4A-7 2nd round playoff results
Arkadelphia 52, Ozark 21
Malvern 41, Lamar 31
Nashville 37, Pocahontas 7
Elkins 63, Ashdown 27
4A state playoff quarterfinal games
McGehee at Harding Academy
Rivercrest at Arkadelphia
Malvern at Warren
Nashville at Elkins