Brandon Ulmer interception return for a touchdown helps saves season opening win

The Booneville Bearcat defense was asked to save the home opener at Bearcat Stadium Friday night. They did one better by scoring to put away the Gravette Lions, 21-7.

After Noah Gregory’s punt rolled dead at the Gravette 21-yard line with 7:12 to go in the game, the Lions were coming off a 3-yard Kilby Roberts touchdown run and having forced the punt.

Roberts ran for 18 yards on the second play of the possession and Gravette (1-1) was at the their own 45 with the clock nearing the six minute mark. A 4-yard run by Austin O’Brien on a fourth-and-2 and the Lions were at the Bearcat (1-1) 43 with 4:52 to go.

After Roberts was stopped for no gain by Devin Davis and Carson Ray then backed up by a false start it was second-and-15. Roberts was looking for O’Brien at the Bearcat 31 but instead Brandon Ulmer picked Roberts off for the first Gravette turnover of the night.

That wasn’t enough for Ulmer who avoided essentially every player in a white jersey for the 69 yards between him and the end zone for a touchdown to make it 19-7. Following a time out Caleb Draper ran for a two point conversion to push it to 21-7 with 3:54 left

After a kickoff return to the Gravette 45 by Bailey Soule’ Roberts and the Lions were down, not out, yet. Gravette hit Donny Lemonds for 9 and then for 20 two plays later and the ball was a the Bearcat 26.

An incomplete pass and another pass to Lemonds got 5 yards before Roberts went for the end zone and found Trent Wooldridge to give the Bearcats the ball back with 2:38 remaining.

Draper got 5 and 3 on successive carries and Grant Rodatz moved the sticks with a 4-yard gain and it was victory formation from that point.

For Draper that gave him a 25-carry, 147-yard night with a touchdown.

Prior to a turnover that got the Lions in the game late in the third quarter the Bearcats had been in complete control.

A game opening, 14-play drive chewed up 6:27 of the first quarter was capped when Rodatz dove into the end zone from the 1 and Austin Dobbs added the point after for a 7-0 lead.

Gravette got a 9-yard pass from Roberts to Brady Moorman but after consecutive negative rushing plays by Noah Reyes and Chance Pence with help from Marcus Nichols, the Lions punted.

Three-and-out would be the theme for the first half for Gravette as all three of their possessions ended in that manner.

The Bearcats strung together three first downs on their second possession but ultimately punted. A possession later, aided by a personal foul on a punt return, the Bearcats needed to go just 39 yards and did so in eight plays.

Draper scored from the 3 but Dobbs was wide on the PAT try and it was 13-0.

The Lions had 8 offensive yards in the first half but started the second half with an 18-yard run by O’Brien and ultimately reached the Bearcat 38 before turning the ball over on downs.

A punt exchange later the Bearcats were at their own 35 at the 3:44 mark of the third quarter.

Carson Ray then got free for 15 and a 25-yard pass from Hayden Fennell to Wooldridge had the ball at the 25 just 30 seconds later.

Two plays later it was third-and-18 and Fennell rolled out to his left, avoided a defender but lost his balance, fumbled and Moorman recovered for the Lions at their 48 with 1:18 left in the quarter. Fennell was also injured on the play and did not return.

Gravette took full advantage of the turnover driving 52 yards in just seven plays and Robert Barrios added the PAT to make it 13-7.

Ulmer took over under center and the Bearcats managed a first down, but were forced to punt and the Lions appeared to be on their way to beating a Conference 4A-4 team by a conversion for the second straight week before Ulmer’s defensive heroics.

The Bearcats will wrap up nonconference play this week by hosting Class 5A Vilonia. Vilonia is 2-0 with wins over Green County Tech, 42-14, and Pottsville, 21-6, with both games played in Vilonia.