The Booneville Bearcats saw their season end the day after Thanksgiving with a 22-19 loss to Pea Ridge in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state football playoffs.
The Conference 4A-4 champion Bearcats (10-2) got a pair of rushing touchdowns from Carson Ray to open a 13-0 lead with both scores coming after turnovers.
Pea Ridge (12-1), champions of the 4A-1, won the opening coin toss and opted to defer until the second half. The Bearcats then marched from their 43-yard line after the short kickoff to the Blackhawk 16 where a Brandon Ulmer third down pass was broken up by Carson Rhine.
After a Blackhawk time out, Ulmer ran to the Pea Ridge 11 but was about a half yard short of a first down.
The first time the Bearcat defense was on the field could not have gone much better.
Drew Winn was throw for a yard loss by Ray and Brasher on first down and, on second down, Brasher picked off Jakota Sainsbury and returned the ball to the Blackhawk 10.
Two plays later Ray was in the end zone and it was 7-0 with 7:26 to go in the opening quarter.
Pea Ridge answered by driving to the Bearcat 29, but on fourth down Grant Rodatz sacked Sainsbury and forced a fumble that Marcus Nichols recovered.
The Bearcats crossed into Blackhawk territory after the turnover but turned the ball over at the 32 with 28 seconds left in the quarter.
Sainsbury threw two incomplete passes and was sacked again, this time by Noah Reyes, on third down and forced to fumble again and, again, Nichols recovered for the Bearcats at the Pea Ridge 25.
On third-and-1 from the 16 Ray scored his second touchdown but Austin Dobbs’ point after was wide left and it stayed 13-0 with 11:14 left in the first half.
The Bearcats forced a punt but were forced to punt themselves and the punt was blocked, giving Pea Ridge possession at the Bearcat 18 with 8:07 left in the half.
The Blackhawks were at the Bearcat 8 when Drew Winn rumbled to the 3 but, after the play, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty backed them up, and an eventual fake field goal did not fool Trent Wooldridge, who tacked Luis Reyes for a 3-yard loss.
After one first down the Bearcats were flagged for holding — the only such call of the game for either team — and after a 5-yard loss by Ulmer the Bearcats eventually punted to the Blackhawk 46 with 1:19 left in the half.
On first down, with Andrew Robertson bearing down on him, Sainsbury threw a pass into the Bearcat sideline but wasn’t flagged for intentional grounding.
On the next play Sainsbury connected with Winn on a screen pass for 16. Three more plays later he hit Hayden Holtgrewe for 20 and a touchdown and it was 13-7 at the half.
Pea Ridge made the first drive of the second half look remarkably easy. Scoring in just five plays. Sainsbury hit Jordan Witcher with a 28-yard pass one play before Winn went 15 for the touchdown and with Evan Green’s PAT the visitors had the lead, 14-13.
Winn carried 34 times for 164 yards. Pea Ridge totalled 156 on the ground as a team.
The Bearcats suffered their only turnover of the game on the ensuing possession when Ulmer was intercepted by Rhine with 8:01 left in the third quarter, but the defense forced a three-and-punt and the Bearcats had the ball back at their 31 after a fair catch by Mike Hesson.
Rodatz bolted for 7 yards on the next play. He finished the 69-yard drive with another run of 7 yards. In between, Robertson had a big 10-yard pickup and Ulmer hit Ethan Dobbs for 33 yards on a third-and-15 to get the ball to the Blackhawk 10.
A two point play had Hesson throwing the ball but it was incomplete and the lead stayed 19-14 with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
Following the kickoff, Winn carried on seven straight downs, the last of which was a 4-yard loss on a tackle by Jacob Gregory, before Sainsbury threw an incomplete pass to end the quarter.
However, on the first play of the final quarter, Sainsbury hit Holtgrewe for 17 and a first down, and three Winn carries later the Blackhawks were back in front. Winn scored from the 6 and ran for the extra two out of a wildcat formation to make it 22-19 with 10:10 remaining.
Three first downs after the kickoff the Bearcats were at the Pea Ridge 38. Hesson got 2 on first down but was shaken up on the play. A Blackhawk was shaken up on the next play.
Both left under their own power.
After Rodatz got 6, Ray lost 2 and Ulmer lost 4 on fourth down and Pea Ridge had the ball back with 4:34 left.
The Bearcats did not get it back.
The biggest play after the turnover on downs was a third-and-13 pass from Sainsbury to Holtgrew for 13 and a first down.
With the Bearcats having spent their time outs, Winn also picked up 21 to set up the victory formation for the Blackhawks.