With a smothering defense that allowed a minus 7 rushing yards, the Booneville Bearcats knocked Star City from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 21-7 decision Friday night at Bearcat Stadium.
Star City (2-1) had only two first downs in the entire first half and one of them came via a pass interference penalty. The Bulldogs finished the night with nine first downs.
The Bulldogs were stout defensively themselves at the outset as three plays netted the Bearcats two yards on the game’s initial possession. Equal to the challenge, the Bearcats held the Bulldogs to zero yards in their first three plays.
Bryson May started the next Bearcat (3-0) drive with a 5-yard gain, Cody Harel followed that with 7 yards and a first down before Matt Berry slipped through the overloaded defensive front and went 61 yards for a touchdown.
Berry would have another long run in the second half and finished the night with 108 yards on seven carries.
Landon Vance added the point after for a 7-0 lead. After struggling last week, Vance was perfect in three point after tries this week.
After a second three-and-punt – Justin Shackleford threw DeJunn Harris for a 4-yard loss and there were two incomplete passes – the Bearcats started their next possession at their 42.
Three plays later the Bearcats faced fourth-and-inches and Shackleford rumbled for 17 yards. Two plays later Harrel went 30 for a touchdown with Cody Simpson throwing a key block and it was 14-0 with 4:34 left in the first quarter.
After a third Bulldog punt, Harrel threw an interception to start a turnover series that saw a combined six lost possession before halftime.
A fumble by James Ray gave the Bulldogs their best field position of the game to that point and Star City moved from the Bearcat 45-yard line to the 14, thanks to a pass interference penalty, but Berry picked off Tye Brown to end the threat with 2:16 left in the half.
Brown, a highly touted sophomore quarterback who had thrown nine touchdown passes in two games, was held to 13-of-35 passing for 142 yards with two interceptions.
After the Bearcats were forced to punt the Bulldogs had 51 seconds with which to work but Bryson May picked off a Brown pass and took it back to the Star City 42.
Booneville then had 38 seconds at their disposal. Harrel hit Michael Springs for 16 then tossed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Berry with 23 seconds left in the half to make it 21-0.
A fumbled kickoff recovered by Damon May gave the Bearcats the ball back with 20 seconds left but after hitting Damon May for 17, Harrel was sacked then threw an interception on the final play of the half.
Zach Endsley recovered an onside kick attempt by the Bearcats to start the second half and Star City converted a fourth down but couldn’t do so a second time and the Bearcats took over at their own 22.
The Bearcats strung together three straight third down conversions but would run out of downs at the Bulldog 39 but they had taken 7:31 off of the clock.
Star City ran nine plays over the next 2:14 and got on the scoreboard on a 1-yard run by Brown to make it 21-7.
A 49-yard run by Berry on the ensuing possession got the Bearcats to the Bulldog 15 but Star City stiffened and forced a field goal try that never happened because Ray had to corral the snap.
Two plays later Dalton Gray sacked Brown and caused a fumble that Shackleford recovered. Brown was sacked three times with the others provided by Bryson May and Michael Drawbaugh.
Even with a penalty that allowed them to start at the Bulldog 23 and with Bryson May carrying on five straight downs, the Bearcats couldn’t put the game away, but they ran the clock down to 3:14 before Harrel was stopped on a fourth down play at the Bulldog 7.
Bryson May ran 24 times for 54 yards in the game.
Four plays later the Bearcats had the ball back at the Star City 10 with only 2:18 to play.
The Bearcas will open conference play Friday when they host 0-3 Waldron for homecoming. The coronation ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. and kickoff is at 7.