A nifty 8-yard touchdown run by Cody Harrel ended the first half and gave the Bearcats a 28-14 lead at Ozark Friday. The rout had commenced.
That drive began after a 5-yard Gage Battles touchdown run that got Ozark (0-1) back in the game at 21-14.
Leery of a deep kick in light of an 82-yard Josh Smith punt return that drew first blood for the Bearcats (1-0), Ozark’s Patrick McCartney angled one toward the sideline and Joseph Saldana snagged it at the 27.
Saldana took it back 27 yards to the Ozark 46 and the Bearcats coaching staff started thinking points. It was kind of fitting that Saldana was in the mix of the key segment of the game.
After a television preseason report in which an Ozark player closed the story with "Beat Booneville," Saldana closed a similar segment about Booneville by saying, "see you on the field Ozark."
The field had not been a place Booneville has had success against Ozark lately. Ozark had won three in a row over two years before and Saldana and the seniors had not been a part of just one win over Ozark, it five years ago, and one tie as freshmen.
After Saldana’s return, Harrel got a yard and Matt Berry popped loose for 20. A 5-yard run by Bryson May and passes from Harrel to Saldana and May, for 7 and 5 yards, respectively – Saldana saved time by getting out of bounds on his catch – the ball was at the Hillbilly 8 with 4 seconds left.
Harrel spiked the ball to kill the clock then, when head coach Scott Hyatt shunned the field goal ideal, Harrel, with an escort from Berry and a block downfield from Smith, took off to his left. Though hit by Chase Coody at the 5 Harrel stayed upright and he overpowered Kurkeyendall to get into the end zone with no time on the clock.
Having deferred their option until the second half the Bearcats were not done.
After a kickoff out of bounds and a second kickoff, which James Ray returned to the 40, the Bearcats went 60 yards in eight plays. Justin Shackleford did the honors from the 3 and it was 35-14.
Shackleford wasn’t done. He started the next possession with a 23-yard carry and ended it with another 3-yard touchdown to make it 42-14 with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
His offensive exploits not withstanding, Shackleford wreaked the most havoc from his noseman position where he had a team best seven tackles, three of which were for losses.
Once the final quarter began the game was turned over to reserves, but they had no mercy. Or rather, they did.
Jimmy Scott intercepted a Ryan Jenkins pass at the Hillbilly 27 early in the final quarter and took it back to the 5. Carries by sophomore Sam Cooney and Cole Inklebarger got the ball to the 2 and Cooney took it in from there to make it 49-14 to start the continuous clock.
Ozark used the next seven-plus minutes to move all the way to the Bearcat 1-yard line, where an encroachment penalty on the Bearcats moved the ball just inches away from the end zone.
On fourth-and-goal, Dalton Richie tracked down by Dalton Richie for a 5-yard loss and the clock expired without another snap.
Ozark started the game with a Coody return to the 49 but a three-and-punt possession that included a pair of tackles by Damon May. Coleman McClure’s punt bounced into Smith’s hands at the 18.
Smith faked a hand-off to Berry got a couple of blocks to reach the sideline and was on his way, having only to avoid a diving Joe Miner and her was gone. Harrel added the point after for a 7-0 lead – Vance added the next six.
Ozark answered with a 46-yard Jacob Simpson touchdown run on the ensuing possession and actually got the ball back with the score tied.
However a 30-yard loss on a snap over Simpson’s head – there were three such snaps in the game – preceded a punt that gave the Bearcats the ball at the Ozark 42. A 5-yard May touchdown made it 14-7 just 3 seconds into the second quarter.
May’s second touchdown of the quarter covered 4 yards and made it 21-7 and it appeared the rout may be on then. May, who had his first 100-yard game against Ozark in his first start last year, ran for 163 Friday.
However, the Bearcats were unable to take advantage of a short field on their next possession because of a pair of holding calls and a blocked punt that Tanner Elliot was able to down to save further damage gave Ozark the ball at their 42.
It also gave the Hillbillies life because they marched 58 yards to Battles’ touchdown to make it 21-14.
The Bearcats will host Gravette, a 35-14 loser to Larma Friday, this week.