For the first time in a second half this season it appeared a Booneville opponent truly had momentum. It came with 9:18 to play in the third quarter Friday night at Golden Lion Stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff.
However, watching the Bearcat defense, Ms. Momentum was, in short order, enticed to return to the fold and Booneville (14-0) went on to make a 43-14 splash in the Class 4A state semifinals in a battle of unbeatens.
With the win the Bearcats earned the school’s eight state title game appearance next Friday night at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock against Warren. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
The Bearcats were up 20-0 when the second half began with Cody Harrel kicking the ball out of bounds. For Harrel it was a rare misstep on a night he scored three touchdowns while running 20 times for 167 yards.
Starting from their 35-yard line Pine Bluff Dollarway (13-1) needed only three plays to reach the end zone. Darius Robison rumbled for 11, Keshawn Williams got 28 and Robinson finished the drive from the 24. With a two-point conversion run by Joshua Liddell it was 20-8.
Harrel ran 7 yards to move the chains on a third down after the kickoff, but a play later Bryson May coughed up the ball and Dollarway had it at their 44 less than three minutes into the half.
Dollarway’s next three plays were a 1-yard gain, a 3-yard gain and a 1-yard loss on a play on which Justin Shackleford was held. The flag was declined and a fourth down incompletion gave the ball back to the Bearcats.
The Cardinals forced a three-and-out and again looked like they were still in the game, especially a punt snap sailed over Harrel’s head. Still he recovered and got off a determined 24-yard effort.
Dalton Gray was held on first down to back the Cardinals up and after an incomplete pass, a fumble the Cardinals recovered themselves and another pass that hit the soaked turf, Dollarway punted – to the first down stick at their 28.
Two plays later Harrel found a wide open Matt Berry behind a crowded line of scrimmage and Berry turned the reception into a touchdown. May ran for a two point conversion and a 28-8 lead with 1:56 left in the quarter.
Dollarway managed a pair of first downs on the ensuing possession before turning the ball over on downs on a fourth down incompletion at their 40 with 11:04 to play.
For all intentions, it was over.
Still after three plays it was fourth-and-4 and, after Bearcat head coach Scott Hyatt took a time out, he turned his quarterback loose. Harrel got more than the first down, going 34 for a touchdown. Shackleford ran for an extra two points and it was 36-8 with 8:46 to go.
Dollarway answered with a 9-play drive that, for the most part, served only to move the Bearcats four minutes close to Little Rock.
The Cardinals had a first-and-goal at the three but needed three to get the ball across the plain with Liddell sneaking in from the 1. Michael Springs ran Markell Scott down from behind on a two point try to keep it 36-14.
Carrying the ball five straight downs it was May who provided the final margin. After the onside kick was unsuccessful, May carried for 53 of his 115 yards on the night and scored from the 9 with 1:37 remaining. Josh Smith’s point after made it 43-14.
Smith also did the initial scoring damage for the Bearcats. After the Cardinals won the toss and deferred to the second half Booneville went 69 yards in eight plays. May started it with a 9-yard carry, Harrel went 42 on the third play and Smith, after a false start, scored from the 11 to make it 7-0.
After a Cardinal punt the Bearcats had the ball the rest of the quarter. After 11 plays the ball was at the Dollarway 14 and, out of the quarter break Harrel drug Cardinals into the end zone to complete a 14-yard run to make it 14-0.
Berry recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff but the Bearcats were unable to do more damage and the Cardinals put together a drive to the Bearcat 24 where Damon May made a tackle for a 2-yard loss and Shackleford caused and recovered a fumble to give the Bearcats the ball back.
A 12-play drive covered the 72 yards before them and Harrel’s 11-yard run with 2:44 left in the half made it 20-0 – the PAT failed.
Joseph Saldana caused what looked like a fumble one play after the kickoff but the incomplete pass ruling allowed the Cardinals to keep the ball long enough to punt with 28 seconds left in the half.