With Round Two a trip to the Northwest Arkansas town of Charleston on the line, the Rison Wildcats played host to the Earle Bulldogs in Class 3A Round One Playoff Action.
Both teams were coming off of a pair of losses to end the regular season, and both teams wanted to make a statement, and move on to a playoff victory.
Rison would win the toss and elect to take the opening kickoff. The Wildcats would manage a 9 play 73 yard scoring drive, capped off by a 16 yard Raphael Caldwell touchdown run. Rison would add the PAT to make the score 7-0.
Earle would answer right back though, on a 4 play 67 yard drive, capped off by a 4 yard Mike Bowles run. The Bulldogs would miss their PAT.
The Wildcats would not be deterred, as they would march on a 12 play 75 yard drive, capped off by a 8 yard A.J. Smith run at the 2:13 mark in the first quarter. The PAT would make the score 14-6.
After holding the Bulldogs to minimal yardage, and forcing a punt, Rison would again score on a 10 play 80 yard drive capped off by a 8 yard run from Caldwell wit 7:06 to play in the half. The added PAT would bring the score to 21-6 in favor of the Wildcats.
Earle would answer with a 8 play 74 yard drive capped off by a 2 yard Mike Wilson run. The Bulldogs would attempt a two-point conversion, but the Wildcat defense would stop them short.
Rison would score one more time before the half with 26 seconds to play, when quarterback LaJuann Jones would connect with Marquis Walker for a 26 yard touchdown pass. The PAT would give the halftime score of 28-12.
Earle would have their best drive of the night on the opening drive of the second half. A 14 play 70 yard driver would end in a 3 touchdown yard scamper by Mike Wilson. The Bulldogs would go for two, and would convert, to bring the Bulldogs within 8 points of the Wildcats, at 28-20.
Rison would answer right back, then put the game in the hands of their defense. A 9 yard touchdown run by Caldwell would seal the game for the Wildcats at the 10:15 mark in the fourth quarter. The PAT would give us the final score of 35-20.
Earle head coach Jeff Spaletta gave his thoughts following the game.
"Penalties killed us tonight." said Spaletta. "We had four to six penalties in the first half that really hurt us, and it was on drives that we ran every play we wanted to at will, so that really hurt us. We did have some good line play in the first half, so we do have some positives that we can build off of during the off-season."
Rison head coach Clay Totty also gave his thoughts.
"We had several things go against us tonight." said Totty. We had a fan get a 15 yard penalty thrown against us, we made some other mistakes, and had a lot go against us, but our boys overcame, and won the ballgame. I am really proud of them for that. Our kids stepped up, and got us a big win."
ArkansasVarsity.com Player of the Game: Rison running back Raphael Caldwell: 27 carries, 194 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Rison will travel to face the Charleston Tigers next Friday night.