BY NORM BETZ –
After a long, tough, hard working off season, no one expected the Mena Bearcats to lose their home opener to the DeQueen Leopards, 41-13. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened on Friday night at Randall Whorton Field.
It was a sloppy start of the 2015 season for both teams, as three out of the first four plays were whistled dead due to penalties. Mena committed a pass interference penalty on the very first play from the line of scrimmage, while DeQueen had a motion penalty and an illegal block in the back penalty on two of the next three plays. The Leopards first possession ended with a turnover on downs.
As if the first game jitters wasn’t enough, Mena was also dealing with a clock malfunction that had the coaches and faculty scrambling to try to get the just installed brand new state of the art scoreboard, which was finally fixed midway through the second quarter.
The only positive yards the Bearcats could muster on their first possession was a three-yard pass completion from first-year sophomore starting quarterback, Carson Cannon to senior Chism Maye and a two-yard run by junior Ryan Ozanich. Unfortunately for Mena, the fourth down punt snap sailed over Maye’s head for a 24-yard loss.
DeQueen capitalized one play later on a 15-yard sweep around the left side for a touchdown. The point after the touchdown (PAT) was blocked by senior Jared Flemins and the Leopards took an early 6-0 lead.
Mena’s next possession ended when the Bearcats turned the ball over on downs after not picking up a yard on fourth and one from their own 32-yard line.
Three plays later the Leopards cashed in on the turnover on a 35-yard touchdown completion. The PAT was added and DeQueen led 13-0 with 3:45 to play in the opening quarter.
Mena’s third first-quarter possession ended in another three-and-out after a 25-yard punt by Maye.
The Leopards reached the end-zone again on their first play of the second quarter on a 60-yard pass completion, with 45 of those yards coming after the catch. The PAT split the uprights and DeQueen led Mena 20-0.
The Bearcats next possession only lasted two plays as Cannon was intercepted on the second play of the possession. Already down three scores, the Mena defense bowed up and shut DeQueen down, forcing them to turn the ball over on downs on the Mena 31-yard line.
The defensive sack by junior Matthew Shelley and seniors David Goodner and Flemins, gave the Bearcats a little momentum, as they took their next possession to pay dirt. Ozanich opened up the drive with a 29-yard scamper and later ran for another five yards and caught a pass for 11 yards. Sophomore Justin Dean picked up a little three-yard gain before he broke open for the 15-yard touchdown. Senior Justin Godfrey added the PAT and Mena trailed DeQueen 20-7 with 4:15 to play in the opening half.
DeQueen turned the ball over via a fumble and it immediately paid dividends for Mena as they pulled a trick out of their hat. The Bearcats threw a double pass that was good for a 27-yard gain down to the Leopards 17-yard line. Cannon tossed a lateral pass to Ozanich who then completed a pass to Dean. Senior D’Wayn Grinder kept his feet churning and busted one in over the left tackle. Godfrey’s PAT sailed wide left and the Bearcats trailed 20-13 with 3:01 to play in the second quarter.
After giving up one first down to DeQueen on their next possession, Mena’s defense shut down the Leopards and trailed DeQueen 20-13 at the end of the first half.
Mena’s first possession of the second half ended via a fumble and the Leopards took it to the house just two plays later to increase their lead to 28-13.
The Bearcats only picked up one first down in the third quarter, while the Leopards added another TD and led 35-13 at the end of the third.
Mena did pick up a first down on their next possession, but turned the ball over on downs and De Queen drove 68 yards on 11 plays to score the final TD of the game. The Leopards missed the PAT but led 41-13 with 4:14 to play in the contest.
The Bearcats put together their most impressive drive of the night, as Cannon completed five-of-eight passes for 47 yards, before throwing an interception in the end-zone to end any hope of the Mena comeback. Mena dropped their first game of their 2015 campaign, 41-13.
Mena will go on the road for week two as they travel to Hot Springs to battle a very tough 5A Trojans team. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcast live on KQOR 105.3.