BY RICK WRIGHT –
The Bearcats knocked off a tough ground and pound style Hot Springs Trojans Friday night in Bearcat Stadium with a 24-21 during their first home game of the season and are looking ahead to facing the Bulldogs on the grid-iron this week.
Speaking about the Bearcats first victory of the season, Bearcat Head Football Coach Tim Harper said, “We didn’t get the running game going Friday, rushing 26 times for 113 yards,” said. “They had a little better run in defense than we did in De Queen, but we threw the ball for 170 yards to earn 283 yards of offense for the night. They don’t keep score on how many yards you get, but on points.”
The Bearcats have scored the opening possession of both halves in both games. “Our first score was an easy nice 26 or 27 yard drive for a touchdown,” said Harper.
“I’m real proud of our players. That shows you they are taking what we do on the practice field to the game,” said Harper. “Doesn’t mean we do it the whole game, but at least coming out of the breaks we are good. If we can keep that stat up, I’ll be one fired up dude!”
The Bearcat defense stood up to a bruising Trojan running attack. “We stopped them when it counted most,” said Harper. “And that’s what I’m proud of. Our kids believed, they worked really hard doing what the coaches were asking them to do.”
Hot Springs had talented kickers. “We forced them to punt on their second possession, and their guy punts the ball 66 yards, in the air. If he isn’t a D1 punter, I’ve never seen one,” said Harper. “Turns the punt over. When that ball turns over like that it picks up speed on you. Our return man almost made a great catch, but unfortunately, they got on the ball. We muffed it and they get on it and of course three or four plays later they score.”
Harper is particularly proud of the resilience the team is showing and plans to take that and the experience they’ve gained when they face the Bulldogs this Friday. “Our kids are resilient,” said Harper. “When we went down 21-17 in the fourth quarter, they answered with a 10-play 75-yard scoring drive for a touchdown. We picked up a huge third down conversion by penalty, by drawing them off sides. That shows a lot of growing up took place between De Queen and the Hot Springs game.”
The Bearcats travel to Waldron Friday night. Waldron comes into the game 2-0 for the first time in several years and is expected to be a better match-up with Mena than in previous years.
“I don’t know how long it’s been, but prior to this week is history,” said Harper. “Including the Hot Springs game for us and including the Cedarville game for them. We to should be 2-0. We, unfortunately, gave the De Queen game away. But, we are where we are. It’s actually been a little bit of a blessing because we grew up some. Our kids realize we’re not good enough to make stupid mistakes. I heard our kids saying to each other leaving the locker room at the half, ‘NO DUMB MISTAKES’, NO DUMB PENALTIES’. It makes my job easier when our seniors are coaching everybody else up on what not to do. I was real proud of our senior leadership, Jackson Sullivan, Ryan Ozanich and Conner Hendrix.”
“Waldron runs kind of a Flex-bone… its what they base out of,” said Harper. “But they run a lot of Wing-T plays, so they are a run oriented team, they are going to run it somewhere in the 80 to 90 percent range. They are very athletic, compared to Waldron team’s in recent history. They have a great quarterback named Trey Williams who is very dangerous. As a runner, he’s their leading rusher with 211 yards in two games, also their leading scorer. They have some other guys that are pretty good as well with him. But the run the football first. They’ve thrown it for about 100 yards in two games, but they’ve rushed it for over 500 yards. So they are a very good rushing football team. They run the Triple Option so we’re going to have to be very disciplined on defense, everybody do their job, don’t worry about helping others until your job is done and complete.”
“If we do that and tackle well, I think our defense has a chance to have a big night for us,” said Harper. They run a 3-4 defense. So when we are in the Spread Offense and we bring in a tight end or we go two tights or two backs they will probably go to a 4-3 or a 5-2. So they are very similar to us defensively. We run a 3-3 Stack. But how they line up is based on how the offense lines up.”
“Very proud of the way our defense played last week,” said Harper.