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Harper Says Speed & Discipline are Necessary to Score a Win Against Malvern

BY RICK WRIGHT –

“We’ve got to win three out of the seven conference games to go to the playoffs,” said Mena’s Head Football Coach Tim Harper. “It’s a harder chore than it sounds. I feel like we should win Bauxite and Fountain Lake… that means you have to beat Arkadelphia, Malvern or Ashdown. We let Ashdown go. We let them off the hook,” referencing the Bearcats’ loss last Friday 13-12.

“We’re not as athletic as any of them. So when we make mistakes like 50 yards in penalties on the offensive line, you just can’t win that way,” said Harper. “No matter if it’s a holding penalty or we’re jumping off-sides, whatever it may be.”

“Carson Cannon finished 11 of 18 for 157 yards. Ty Cole had three catches for 25 yards. Justin Dean had five catches for 54 yards and Cross Hughes had three catches for 22 yards. It’s probably the first time in Ryan Ozanich’s career he didn’t have a catch.”

“They did some things that was spooky to us,” said Harper. “They jumped up and pressed us all the way across. It caught us off guard. We go to the line of scrimmage then I called the play. This particular time, we get all lined up and I called the play based on how they lined up and they changed or walked up and killed the play. So I had to call a time out early.”  Feeling the weight of the loss, Harper added. “We had 105 yards rushing, it was a bad day.”

Harper is proud of the resilience of his young team, “Our kids are great kids, they work hard,” said Harper. “Our kids will be fine. They are tougher than all of us.”

Harper conveyed that ther than two big pass plays, the Bearcat defense contained Ashdown pretty well.  “Our defense held them to 254 total yards of offense. Considering 111 yards came on two plays, the defense more than stood up to the challenge. They ran 61 plays and only had 130 yards, 59 out of 61 plays we held them in check. 0ur coverage was good all night, even on the two plays they scored on. We just missed two tackles. We had people in position, we just didn’t finish it. That happens.”

The Bearcat defense played better than was expected considering the talent level on the Ashdown offense, Harper was keenly aware of the predictions going into the match, “We were picked to loose by two touchdowns,” said Harper. “And we should have won. Our kids are resilient. They realize they have to play one play at a time. If you make a mistake or you don’t do well, get up and do it again, don’t give up, and don’t quit, everybody is counting on you still. We’re getting better. We’ve got some kids that are pretty happy just to be a part of it. And we have a handful of kids that are just going through the motions. We’ve got to challenge them this week to get to doing their jobs as hard as they can. A play away is not a play off.”

“Malvern is probably 75% run, very fast, very elusive with good speed. They have four backs that can take it the distance at any point,” said Harper. “We’ve got to be very sure tacklers, we’ve got to be physical and we’ve got to be very disciplined because they run a lot of zone read with their quarterback. So if we all run after the back, the quarterback will go out the back door and he may be the best one.”

“Offensively, Malvern is probably not quite as good defensively as they’ve been the last couple of years,” said Harper. “I’d say not quite as good defensively as Ashdown, but they are very good. I feel like it will be a great football game. The atmosphere will be great. Whoever wants it the most will get it.”

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