For the first three possessions Friday night it looked like the Class 4A quarterfinal match between Booneville and Lincoln was anybody’s game.
For the rest of the night it looked like the first two playoff games at Bearcat Stadium – and about every other Booneville game this season – Bearcat domination, to the tune of 452 rushing yards. When the night ended the Bearcats (13-0) moved on with a 35-0 shutout of the Wolves.
Lincoln (11-2) couldn’t overcome a false start during the opening possession but a 46-yard punt pinned the Bearcats at their 9-yard line.
Two plays later the Bearcats were at their 28 and, after Cody Harrel ran for 47 yards, the Bearcats were at the Wolf 25, but they would turn the ball over on downs at the 23.
Going over the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year, Harrel ran for 85 yards in the game.
Riding the legs of Tyler Cummings the Wolves marched to the Bearcat 20 before Justin Shackleford had to be held to be contained and Lincoln would opt for a 48-yard field goal try that was well short.
Starting from their 20 the Bearcats broke the ice in seven plays. A third-and-4 became a third-and-9 due to a false start but Josh Smith was up to the task going 40 yards for the touchdown with 10:57 to play in the first half. Smith, who finished with 57 yards, then added the point after for a 7-0 lead.
Cummings, a 2,000-yard rusher this season, got Lincoln to the Bearcat 45 with a 28-yard carry, but Cummings’ fourth down pass – from punt formation – was intercepted by Matt Berry.
Bearcat head coach Scott Hyatt was none too pleased Berry didn’t choose to knock the ball down, but Smith got 3, Harrel got 3, Smith got 11, and Bryson May completed the 86-yard drive with the final 69 yards.
Alex Pitts had a chance to make the tackle deep in Wolf territory but May shoved him aside and completed the run for a 14-0 lead.
The fullback was on his way to a huge night in which he would gain 177 yards on just 10 carries, also going over the 1,000-yard mark in the process. But it was May’s defensive play that set up the next touchdown.
After another holding penalty backed Lincoln up on the ensuing possession, looking to take advantage of Booneville’s aggressiveness, the Wolves opted for a screen pass. May picked it off at the Lincoln 22 and took it back to the 7.
Two carries later, May had his second touchdown of the night on a 1-yard run and it was 21-0.
There were three straight negative yardage plays on the ensuing possession and the Bearcats got the ball back at their 45 with 3:34 left in the half but Lincoln avoided further damage by forcing a punt.
They did so despite losing Cummings to an injury. Cummings did not return in the game, finishing with 80 yards on 11 carries.
In the final seconds of the half, Joseph Saldana – who led the Bearcats in tackles – sacked Harris for the second time — the Bearcats would record eight tackles for a loss.
Dalton Gray had a third Bearcat sack and Damon May added another 2.5 tackles for a loss.
Because the Bearcats deferred their option until the second half when they won the toss to start the game, Hyatt’s offense had the ball first. Berry returned the opening kickoff from the Bearcat 9 to the 36.
May went 64 yards on the next play – Pitts was again the last hope for the Wolves, and again May won that battle – and it was 28-0.
Dalton Simmons’ 22-yard kickoff return allowed Lincoln to start their first second half possession at the Bearcat 48. Three plays later the Wolves were at their own 47 and punting.
Berry went 78 yards on the next play but this time Pitts was able to make a stop before the Bearcats scored. Still, two plays later, Berry went in from the 2 and it was 35-0 with 9:45 left in the third quarter.
Berry actually netted 78 yards on four carries for the night.
With Cummings unavailable, the Wolves were forced to try to rely on Harris. Harris was repeatedly under heavy pressure. The quarterback finished the night 3-of-15 for 14 yards.
Reserves closed the game for the Bearcats but there wasn’t much of a letup as Sam Cooney and Cole Inklebarger combined for 10 carries and 52 yards.
Friday’s win propels the Bearcats into the semifinal round against top-ranked Pine Bluff Dollarway. The Cardinals beat Star City 36-0 Friday in a game played at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff to earn a spot in the semi-finals.
Where Friday’s game will be played will depend upon the weather, Hyatt said Monday.