LITTLE ROCK – Discipline and hard work is key to conquering “The Rock” and Mount Ida proved that had both in spades Saturday with a hard fought 27-26 victory over the Hampton Bulldogs to win the 2A State Championship.
The victory marks the second state title for Mount Ida in just under 10 years with the previous title coming in 2007. Similarities abounded between the two teams with both finding themselves playing the role of underdog in the state championship game. They also each earned a one point victory with the 2007 team defeating Bearden 17-16 and the current Lion team earning a 27-26 victory over the Bulldogs.
Mount Ida entered the game focused on finishing the season with a win for only the second time in team history. They found themselves on defense as the game began just after noon. The sun claimed the afternoon sky heating up the field and seemingly the Hampton offense who jumped out to a 20-7 lead in the first half.
The Bulldogs were able to convert their first three possessions into touchdowns. Hampton took the opening drive 67 yards in seven plays and scored when Monta Thomas connected with Elian Martinez for a 26 yard touchdown reception. The Bulldogs’ two point conversion failed and they held an early six point lead with 8:00 to go in the first quarter.
Gage Dyer fielded the ensuing kick off for the Lions on the 20 yard line. He followed his wall of blockers to the middle of the field and found a way around the midfield huddle of players to score on the 80 yard return. Tyler Allenbrand hit the PAT to give the Lions a narrow 7-6 lead with 7:46 to go in the opening quarter.
Hampton responded with a six play drive that marched 63 yards down field and ended in a 34 yard run by Kevin Childs with 4:52 to go in the first quarter. Thomas carried the ball in for the two point conversion to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.
Mount Ida’s offense took the field for the first time at the 4:52 mark in the first quarter. Cade Helms broke loose into the open field, but fumbled the ball when tackled and the Bulldogs took over at midfield with the fumble recovery.
Hampton wasted little time going 51 yards in one play to score on a run by Thomas. Jonathan Lagrange intercepted the pass attempt on the two point conversion to hold the Hampton lead to 13.
Momentum began to swing slowly in Mount Ida’s favor with the Lions responsible for the next 20 points to be scored.
The Lions launched a 14 play drive that traveled 65 yards in just over six minutes. They capped the drive six yard run by Lagrange. Allenbrand’s PAT was good, cutting the Bulldog lead to six with 9:53 to go in the first half.
Hampton was able to push the ball into the Lion red zone on the next drive, but Mount Ida was able to force a fumble which was recovered by Gunner Gilbert on the eight yard line. The Lions pushed the ball into Bulldog territory, but turned the ball over on downs at the Hampton 27.
The half ended with a Hampton punt with the Bulldogs holding on precariously to a 20-14 lead.
Mount Ida opened the second half with the ball on their own 32 yard line. The Lions were able to set the tempo with a 12 play 68 yard drive that ate just under five minutes off the clock and ended with a five yard rushing touchdown by Dyer, his second score on the day. Allenbrand’s PAT was good and the Lions took a 21-20 lead with 7:10 to go in the third quarter.
Hampton pushed the ball within a yard of the Lion goal line, but Mount Ida’s defense forced another fumble with Anthony Spurling recovering the ball on the one yard line. The Lions were able to move the ball to midfield, but were forced to punt the ball away.
Mount Ida took over the ball at the Hampton 49 yard line after forcing a turnover on downs. Helms moved the chains to the two yard line on a 43 yard run on second and six. Cade Jackson finished things off with a two yard run to give the Lions a 27-20 lead with 3:10 to go in the game.
Hampton wasn’t through, driving 61 yards in four plays, scoring on a 25 yard run by Thomas with 1:55 to go in the game.
The Bulldogs lined up for a two point conversion and a possible one point lead. Thomas took the snap and rolled to his right, but was met by a trio of Lion players. He fled to the opposite side of the field as he threw the ball to the left corner of the end zone. The ball did not find a receiver and the Lions held a one point lead.
Jackson stepped under center after the Lions recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock to preserve the win and the Lions second state title.
Possession time was key in the victory with Mount Ida controlling the ball for a second over 17 minutes in the second half.
Mount Ida was clutch in fourth down situations and red zone opportunities, converting on four of five fourth downs and scoring all three times they were in the red zone. Hampton was only one for two on fourth downs and was 0-2 in the red zone with both drives ending with fumbles inside the 10 yard line.
Mount Ida had 62 carries for 346 yards while Hampton had 38 carries for 329 yards.
Penalties were a big part of the ball game with Hampton drawing 14 penalties for 108 yards, negating three touchdowns. Mount Ida was flagged five times for 27 yards.
Cade Helms, who was selected game MVP, had 19 carries for 195 yards, followed by Jonathan Lagrange with 27 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown. Gage Dyer had eight carries for 35 yards and a score. He also had an 80 yard kick off return for a score. Cade Jackson had six carries for 22 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Allenbrand was 3-4 on PATs.
Cade Helms also led the team in tackles with nine total tackles. Gunner Gilbert, who was presented with the Brandon Burlsworth Award, recorded eight tackles and a fumble recovery.
Logan Abernathy had six and Caleb Woodfield had four. Anthony Spurling recovered a fumble and Jonathan Lagrange had an interception.
Mount Ida ends the season with a 14-1 record and the 2016 2A State title.