Three plays into their Class 4A opening round playoff game against Clinton Friday night, the Booneville Bearcats had gained 22 yards but they were still facing a third-and-3.
Josh Smith picked up a first down the next play – offsetting two early penalties – and after Cody Harrel ran for 48, Smith scored from the 9 and the Bearcats were off and running, both in terms of yardage and points scored.
It was 28-0 by the end of the first quarter and 42-0 by halftime and the Bearcats (11-0) were on their way to eliminating the Yellow Jackets (4-7), 42-13.
Smith’s touchdown came at the seven minute mark of the opening quarter. Clinton had taken the ball to start the game and Fielder Dufrene went 39 and 15 yards in the span of three plays before Tanner Elliott recovered a fumble — forced by Joseph Saldana — at the Bearcat 28 yard-line to end the threat.
After scoring his first touchdown of the night Smith misfired on a point after kick for the first time this year – ending a streak of 23 straight — and it was 6-0.
The next Bearcat scoring possession followed a Yellow Jacket punt that came after a third-and-1 stop by Gray and Michael Springs.
After Dufrene’s punt, Harrel went 65 yards for a touchdown and Justin Shackleford ran for an extra two to make it 14-0 with 4:56 left in the quarter. Harrel ran just six times but gained 158 yards in the game.
Gray slapped down a third down pass to induce another Yellow Jacket punt on which Matt Berry lost an impressive return, but the Bearcat offense was even more impressive with its second straight one-play drive.
This time it was Smith who went 58 yards the next play and it was 21-0. Smith had 93 yards on his seven carries.
Elliott forced a fumble on the next possession and Gray recovered for the Bearcats to set up Harrel’s second touchdown, which came on a 9-yard run, to make it 28-0 with 1:11 left in the quarter.
The next Bearcat drive epitomized the night. Shortly after a Dufrene punt rolled dead at the Bearcat 2, it appeared the Yellow Jackets had found a way to stop the Bearcats, forcing a punt on a fourth-and-6 from the 24.
It further appeared the Jackets had gotten the break they had to have to get in the game when the snap sailed over Harrel’s head. Instead, Harrel ran down the ball, scrambled, then hit Springs for 14 yards and a first down.
One play after Clinton head coach Chris Dufrene lost an argument about whether there was an ineligible man downfield on the play, Bryson May rumbled 62 yards for a touchdown to make it 35-0, capping the 98-yard drive, with 7:03 left in the first half.
May ran for 79 yards on just five attempts.
Another Clinton punt, this one of 52 yards, which came after a sack by Shackleford – the Bearcats had six on the night, led by 1.5 each by Shackleford and Joseph Saldana – gave Booneville the ball back on their own 20 with 5:58 to go in the half.
Nine plays and 68 yards later Sam Cooney had relieved May at fullback and the sophomore gained 10 and 2 yards on successive plays.
The later carry went for a touchdown to make it 42-0 with 47 seconds to go in the half. It pushed the Bearcats’ offensive production to 426 yards at that point.
The final yardage tally would be just 20 yards north, thanks in part to another punting game miscue that forced Darren Shaeffer to fall on a loose ball for an 11-yard loss.
Brian Smith and Shannon VanNortrickk combined on a fourth down stop to force a turnover on downs to start the second half but following the punting problem, the Jackets needed to go just 13 yards to get on the scoreboard.
Caden Hickman scored the touchdown from the 6 and it was 42-7 with 3:53 left in the third quarter.
Shaeffer saved a touchdown on his next punt by tripping up James Slack at the Bearcat 37. Shaeffer would have to do it again on another punt.
A Dufrene to Samuel Phillips touchdown pass of 6-yards made it 42-13 but the point after was blocked. Dufrene finished 11-of-23 for 96 yards.
Sacks by Taylor Epperson and Brian Smith, with help from VanNortrick, kept the Jackets from doing further damage.
With Friday’s win the Bearcats earned a second round date with Hamburg. The Lions (9-2), the runner-up in Conference 4A-8, knocked off Mena 48-12 Friday to punch their ticket to the second round.