BY RICK WRIGHT –
The Mena Bearcats improved to 2-1 on the season by whipping the previously unbeaten Waldron Bulldogs 31-18 Friday, September 16th, at Waldron.
The Bulldogs came into the contest riding high after knocking off Mansfield and Cedarville, both 3A schools, to start their season 2-0. Waldron is much improved over recent years, however, they had not faced a team the caliber of the Bearcats who entered Friday night with a record of 1-1, having played two 5A schools.
Bearcat Justin Dean caught the Bulldog’s opening kickoff at the Mena five yard line and returned the kick to the Bearcat 49. Two plays later, Bearcat quarterback Carson Cannon completed a pass to senior Ryan Ozanich who gained nine yards to the Waldron 46. Four plays later, facing a third and nine, Cannon completed a pass down the middle to Ty Cole who caught the pass on the run and sprinted untouched to the endzone to score on a 39 yard touchdown pass. Camden Brodersen split the uprights to make the score Mena 7, Waldron 0.
The Bulldogs returned Mena’s kickoff to the Bearcat 47. Waldron drove to the Mena 11 yard line, with the help of a personal foul face mask penalty, where their drive stalled and the Bulldogs kicked a 26 yard field goal to cut Mena’s lead to 7-3.
Bearcat Cross Hughes came one man from returning the kickoff all the way, however, Mena was penalized for a block in the back and the ball came all the way back to the Bearcat 13 yard line.
The Bearcats moved the ball out to the Mena 33 in five plays where Mena faced a third and three. Cannon gained two yards on third down to bring up a fourth and one. Cannon ran the ball around the left side of the Bearcat offensive line, turned the corner and raced 40 yards to the Bulldog’s 25 yard line where he was knocked out of bounds. Two plays later, Cannon dropped back to pass and threw the ball down the Bearcat sideline toward Cross Hughes who had gotten behind the Waldron defender. With the ball in the air, the Waldron defender tackled the Mena pass receiver just before the ball got there. However, no flag was thrown. Two plays later Mena turned the ball over on downs with 1:46 to play in the first quarter.
With :35 seconds to go in the quarter, Waldron punted the ball to the Mena 34 yard line.
On the second play of the second quarter, Cannon handed off to Dean who galloped straight up the middle through the Bulldog defense for a 59 yard touchdown. Brodersen added the extra point to lift Mena to a 14-3 lead.
Later in the quarter, Waldron benefited with great field position due to a short Bearcat punt. The Bulldogs attempted a 42 yard field goal but missed the kick. Mena took over at their 20 yard line, however the Bearcats couldn’t get anything going and punted on fourth and 22. Another very short punt put Waldron in business at the Mena 29 yard line. Eight plays later, the Bulldogs scored on a one yard quarterback sneak with :36 seconds to play in the half. The extra point was good to make the score Mena 14, Waldron 11.
Mena started the final possession of the first half at their own 20. Cannon gained 17 yards on first down. Two plays later, Cannon completed a pass to Dean who fumbled and the ball was recovered by the Bulldogs at the Mena 37 with just seconds left in the half. Waldron attempted a field goal, however, the Bearcats blocked the kick to end the first half.
With a storm cell, accompanied by lightning, coming over the field, the fans were asked to leave the stands for their safety.
When play resumed, the Bearcats kicked off to start the third quarter. Waldron punted four plays later on fourth and 11 to the Bulldog’s 49. The Bearcats marched 51 yards in nine plays to score on a Cannon three yard touchdown run with 6:13 to play in the quarter. Broderson added the extra point to extend Mena’s lead to 21-11.
Waldron opened the fourth quarter facing a third and three at their own 30. Mena held the Bulldog’s to no gain to bring up a fourth and three. Waldron attempted to punt the ball, however senior Bearcat Conner Hendricks blocked the kick and recovered the ball at the Bulldog 10 yard line. Four plays later, Mena facing a fourth and six, sent Broderson in to attempt a 30 yard field goal. The kick was good to put Mena up 24-11 with 8:59 to play in the game.
Four plays later Waldron was forced to punt on fourth and eight. The Bulldogs kicked the ball to Dean who returned the kick 60 yards for a Bearcat touchdown at the 7:17 mark. With Broderson’s extra point the Bearcats led 31-11
After returning the kickoff, the Bulldogs completed a long jump ball pass reception at the Mena 16 yard line. Five plays later the Bulldogs scored on a one yard quarterback keeper. With the extra point, the score was Mena 31 and Waldron 18.
The Bulldogs attempted an on-sides-kick, however, Bearcat Brock Strother recovered the ball. A personal foul penalty on the play against Mena backed the Bearcats up to their own 35 yard line. The drive ended in a missed field goal attempt from 47 yards.
Waldron’s final offensive series ended when Bearcat Elijah Snider intercepted a pass and returned the ball to the Waldron 15 yard line where Mena ran out the clock to take a 31-18 victory.
The 2-1 Bearcats travel to Ashdown Friday with the kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.