Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SPORTS>>’Cats fall to Colts as pass pilfered

Leader sports editor

Harding Academy took the next step but couldn’t get past Rivercrest as the Colts took a 14-10 victory in Saturday’s 3A state football championship at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

A year after falling short in the semifinals, Harding Academy was upended when Rivercrest’s Trevor Gregory scored on a 1-yard run and kicked the extra point to cap the scoring with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.

Harding Academy’s last possession ended when Demoine Brown intercepted Seth Keese and returned it six yards to Rivercrest’s 45 with 47 seconds left, and the Colts ran out the clock.

Keese, the Wildcats’ all-state standout, was 13 of 19 for 104 yards and no touchdowns. He led Harding Academy with 98 rushing yards while Ben Lecrone gained 29.

Brown was Rivercrest’s star and earned MVP honors, going 4 for 8 for 52 yards, rushing 15 times for 88 yards and one touchdown and grabbing the critical interception.

Brown opened the scoring with a three-yard touchdown run with 3:49 left in the first quarter.

Harding Academy responded when Lecrone ran three yards for a score and Josh Spears kicked the extra point with 3:57 left in the half.

Spears broke the tie and gave Harding Academy its only lead when he kicked a 31-yard field goal to make it 10-7 with 5:21 left in the third quarter. But Rivercrest started at its 26 and drove for Gregory’s go-ahead score, then forced Harding Academy to punt on its next to last possession that spanned the third and fourth quarters.

Harding Academy picked up a first down on its final possession when Lecrone carried for four yards. But the Wildcats’ last series was marred by a four-yard loss on a rush by Keese, an incompletion, a completion to Lecrone for no gain with a fumble the Wildcats’ Corey Guymon recovered at the 50 followed by Keese’s interception.

The Wildcats gained just 215 yards to 255 by Rivercrest in the defensive struggle. The interception was the only turnover of the game, though Harding Academy flirted with trouble as it fumbled three times and recovered all three.

The Wildcats controlled the time of possession, holding the ball 27 minutes and 59 seconds to 20:01 by Rivercrest, and the Wildcats committed no penalties while the Colts were penalized three times for 25 yards.

Rivercrest sacked Keese three times for 16 yards in losses, but all three came in the first half as Harding Academy made adjustments in its blocking scheme.

It was Harding Academy’s first trip to the state final since it won in 2002.

The catalyst for the season was Keese, who suffered a knee injury requiring surgery in last year’s loss to Fountain Lake in the state semifinals.

Fully rehabilitated, Keese, with more than 9,000 career yards entering Saturday, led the Wildcats to get-even victories against Fountain Lake in the season opener and in the semifinals.