When Cody Harrel went 70 yards for a touchdown with 9:39 left in the third quarter the Bearcats had a mercy rule 49-12 lead at Mena Friday night.
Mena’s version of a Bearcat managed a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to get within 49-28 but was never really in a position to challenge Booneville (7-0, 4-0 Conference 4A-4).
It was a big night for the aforementioned Harrel, albeit in limited action that saw him carry only four times for 129 yards.
That was partially because of the score and partially due to a disciplinary matter that carried over which meant James Ray got the start at quarterback. All Ray did was lead three scoring drives.
Ray and the Bearcats went 58 yards the first time they had the ball which came after Mena (3-4, 1-3) won the toss, but peculiarly deferred until the second half and kicked the ball out of bounds – twice.
Josh Smith started what would be a 175-yard first quarter with 17 yards. Ray got 12 for another first down before a third-and-7 became a 26-yard touchdown run by Smith. Smith also added the first of seven straight point after kicks for a 7-0 lead.
Mena went three and out with its first possession but got a 43 yard punt to push the visiting Bearcats back to the 17.
Ray got 11 and Matt Berry had a 12-yard run to move chains and, on a third-and-7, Bryson May went 52 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 with 5:58 left in the first quarter.
Mena then did something that hadn’t been done against Booneville’s defense since Star City in week 3 by going 51-yards – there was a personal foul on the kickoff return – to score. The first first half touchdown surrendered since the season opener, a 19-yard Sage Kesterson to Hunter Hobson, made it 14-6.
By the time the opening quarter ended 3:05 later, the Bearcats were at the Mena 15 and although, Harrel was available, Ray finished the drive. More specifically, Justin Shackleford finished it with an 8-yard run to make it 21-6.
Mena again drove deep into Booneville territory on the ensuing possession but Berry stepped in front of a Kesterson pass at the Bearcat 9 and took it back 91 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-6 6:31 before halftime.
The home Bearcats gifted Booneville field position at the Mena 37 on a fourth down incompletion and Harrel took the field – for one play, his own 37-yard touchdown run to make it 35-6.
Harrel ran twice more on Booneville’s next possession but it was Shackleford who went 6 yards for a touchdown to make it a mercy rule 42-6 just 51 seconds before halftime.
The mercy rule would have to wait because Mena got a kickoff return to the Booneville 42 by Brady Davis then scored in four plays as Kesterson hit Hobson again on the final play of the half. A try for two failed to keep it 42-12.
Any illusions Mena had of that getting them back in the game ended with a three and punt to start the second half.
Set up at their 22 to start their second half, May got 8 but was tackled by the umpire and Harrel avoided the striped shirt and everyone else on the next play to go 70 yards for a 49-12 lead.
To that point the Bearcats had run for 372 yards.
Mena took advantage of Booneville’s generosity that accompanied a 37-point lead because Booneville finished with 362.
The home team really took advantage of defensive substitutions, the wholesale of which came after Shackleford stayed down for a few moments after leveling Kesterson with 10:12 to play.
From then on, Kesterson hit on 4-of-8 passes of 86 yards, bolstering his final numbers to 18-of-29 for 209 and four touchdowns.
Kesterson hit Cameron Robison for 24 and a touchdown with 9:20 to go, then, after a second fourth down failure around midfield, hit Justin Castor for 33 and a touchdown with 3:53 to go. He also hit Castor twice for two point conversions.
Following the two point conversion that made it 49-28, Mena tried an onside kick that Darren Shaeffer smothered, but Mena got the ball back, thanks to a time out, with 1:17 left.
Kesterson threw a pair of incomplete passes before being sacked for a yard loss on the final play by Brian Smith and Damien Ashley.
The Bearcats will wrap up the home portion of the regular season Friday when they host Dover. Senior night festivities are set for 6:30 with kickoff at 7.