By John R. Schirmer
Trailing 21-6 at halftime, the Nashville Scrappers outscored Ashdown 29-7 in the second half to defeat the Panthers 35-28 Friday night at Scrapper Stadium.
Ashdown (6-1, 3-1) had been ranked among the top 5 teams in Class 4A in most state polls going into last week’s game.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys fought,” Coach Mike Volarvich said. “For the first time, we played a complete four-quarter game on offense, defense and special teams.”
The Scrapper defense “made stops when we needed to and created turnovers at crucial teams,” Volarvich said.
“I was very pleased with the defense getting off the field. Ashdown was 31 percent on third downs. We’ve stressed that a lot this year. Get off the field when we need to,” Volarvich said.
Offensively, the Scrappers mounted “sustained drives and put the ball in the endzone when we needed to. The offensive line played its best game of the year.”
Kendrix Holcomb played for Jonathan Hagler, out last week with a concussion.
“He played well, especially being out there for the first time,” Volarvich said.
“As the game went on, the offensive line stepped up. They’ve improved from earlier in the season. That’s what we’re looking for. Some of them don’t have a lot of game reps. As I reminded the guys after the game, it’s not where you start but where you finish,” Volarvich said. “We have a chance to be pretty good.”
On special teams, “There were no explosive scoring plays, and we made a 2-point conversion.”
Volarvich said there were several keys to the Scrappers’ victory over the Panthers.
“First, we played well as a team. Second, we wore them down. We had more gas in the fourth quarter than they did. Next, turnovers were huge. We had none. Ashdown committed 5. Anytime you have a plus-5 turnover margin, it’s huge,” Volarvich said.
After stopping the Scrappers near the goalline in the first quarter, Ashdown passed for a 97-yard scoring play and took a 7-0 lead.
Nashville came back with a 35-yard TD pass from Tyler Hanson to Jhalon Finley. The PAT was no good, and Ashdown held a 7-6 lead in the first quarter.
The Panthers scored on passes of 21 yards and 48 yards in the second quarter and took a 21-6 lead into halftime.
Trent Harris scored the first of his 3 touchdowns on a 39-yard run in the third quarter.
Jhonny Pioquinto kicked the first of 3 PATS to close the gap to 21-13 Ashdown.
The Panthers struck next on a 73-yard run and extended their lead to 28-13.
Harris made it a one-possession game later in the third quarter on a 20-yard run. Pioquinto’s PAT left the score at 28-20 Ashdown.
The fourth quarter belonged to Nashville. Harris scored on a 17-yard run, and the 2-point conversion was good to tie the game at 28-28.
Hanson scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard run.
For the night, Hanson completed 17 of 32 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown.
He and Harris were the game’s leading rushers. Both had 14 carries for 106 yards, with 3 TDs for Harris and 1 for Hanson.
“Hanson was really good,” Volarvich said. “He competed throughout the game and didn’t turn the ball over. He really led us.”
Carmillias Morrison ran the ball 8 times for 14 yards.
Ty Pettway was the leading receiver with 6 catches for 67 yards.
Finley had 3 receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Dominick Kight posted 4 receptions for 32 yards. Levester Gillard caught the ball twice for 25 yards. Harris and Garrett Lance had 1 catch each for 14 yards and 10 yards, respectively.
Defensively, J.R. Middleton led the Scrappers with 14 total tackles, 6 solo and 8 assists.
“This was probably his best game. He’s gotten steadily better week after week,” Volarvich said.
Davion Holmes had 4 solo and 1 assist. Jamarte Gilliam had 4 tackles.
Lance Easter made 4 tackles, 3 assists, had 1 sack and 1 tackle for a loss.
C.J. Adams had 3 solo, 4 assists and a TFL. Shun Childress made 2 solo tackles and had 2 TFl.
Total tackles for other Scrappers included Kailus Hughes 4, Darren May 6 and a sack, Kight 3, Dalton Potter 3, Jordan White 5, Harris 1, J.J. King 1, Isaac Johnson 4, Tyae Harris 2 and a TFL, Colton Patterson 1.
Gilliam recorded 2 interceptions. Adams recovered 2 fumbles, and Caleb Clayton had a fumble recovery.
Jake Moorer punted 3 times for an average of 26 yards per punt. Hanson punted once for 47 yards.
The Scrappers put up 423 yards on 70 plays, including 198 yards passing and 225 rushing.
The Scrappers had 17 first downs, with 13 for Ashdown.
Ashdown lost the ball five times. The Scrappers didn’t have any turnovers.
Nashville was penalized 12 times for 98 yards. Ashdown had 10 penalties for 61 yards.
• • • • • • • • • •
By John R. Schirmer
Following their 35-28 win over previously undefeated Ashdown last week, the Nashville Scrappers will face Mena Friday at 7 p.m. at Scrapper Stadium. The game will wrap up Homecoming Week for Queen Mackenzie Brown and her court.
The Scrappers (4-3, 2-2) will host a Mena team that is 3-4 overall and 0-4 in District 7-4A. The Bearcat victories came against De Queen, Hot Springs and Waldron.
Two of the losses were close, according to Scrapper Coach Mike Volarvich. One came against Malvern when the Leopards won on a late Hail Mary. The other was a 32-28 loss to Bauxite after Mena had led earlier.
The Bearcats also lost to Ashdown and Arkadelphia.
“Mena handled De Queen 41-6. That kind of jumps out at you,” Volarvich said.
The Bearcats are “a physical team. Coach [Tim] Harper said this is one of the better teams he’s had,” according to Volarvich.
Mena’s offense “goes as two of their players go,” including quarterback Carson Cannon and running back Justin Dean. “They’re getting all their yardage. They’re really good players.”
Cannon has completed 42 of 100 passes for 732 yards, 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He’s also run the ball 98 times for 586 yards and 3 TDs.
Dean has 65 carries for 673 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Bearcats “tackle well. They’re pretty multiple. They bring different blitzes and different looks. They try to create some confusion. They play hard,” Volarvich said.
Dean is Mena’s leading tackler with 59.
Mena has “some good-looking kids on film – physically strong, tough kids. We have to make sure we play with good technique and improve on things we’ve been working on,” Volarvich said.
Going into the game, the Scrappers are scoring an average of 41 points per game while giving up 31.9.
Mena has scored an average of 27 points per game and given up 30.
Nashville leads the series with Mena 41-6 and has won 16 in a row. Last season, the Scrappers won 42-7 at Mena.
Homecoming presents a number of challenges for coaches and players. “Most coaches in America don’t like Homecoming Week because of the distractions,” Volarvich said. “I want our kids to have fun. They only get to be part of it one time as seniors. I try to let them enjoy it.”
However, “If there’s a poor performance on the field, nobody cares how your tux fit or what kind of shoes you had on. There’s a lot of preparation. We want to play good football on the field.”