SEARCY — In what was to be a matchup of two of the top public schools in Class 5A on Friday became a lopsided football game.
Harrison and Magnolia met for the second-straight year in the season opener and for the second time, Harrison walked away with a win. The Goblins downed Magnolia, 26-7.
The key to the game was a drive that didn’t produce any points for Harrison. The Goblins had stopped Magnolia after the Panthers ran five plays.
Getting the football with 7:16 left in the third period, Harrison held on to the pigskin until 10:21 was left in the game. The Goblins didn’t convert a fourth-down play to turn the ball over on downs.
“We knew going into the game that we would need to limit the offensive touches for their good backs,” said Harrison Joel Wells. “We were able to accomplish that with only giving them five plays in the third and 18 total for the second half.”
After the Goblins gave the ball back to Magnolia, the Panthers only had the ball for 1:55 before having to punt it back to Harrison.
This time Harrison made them pay. Cylan Madden found a seam and rushed 18 yards for a touchdown with 4:07 left in the game. This drive was 4:19 in length.
Harrison had the ball for 15:18 out of the first 19:53 of the second half.
Magnolia had the ball to end the game, but it did not result in points.
Wells praised the men in the trenches for execution.
“Our offensive line played well,” he said. “I think that group will continue to get better all year. This could be a real strength for our team.”
Another strength for the Goblins was the backfield. Six different backs handled the ball and all six had gains of 10-yards or more.
“We have six or seven guys that can carry the football,” stated the coach. “They all play defense so we rest them on the offensive side.”
Another key point was Harrison scoring on back-to-back drives. The Goblins trailed 7-6 when they got the football back with 28 seconds.
A Hook-and-Ladder play resulted in a 19-yard pick up to start the drive.
After an incomplete pass, Logan Plumlee found Talon Stephens in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown strike with 10.9 seconds left. The score at halftime was 12-7 in Harrison’s favor.
“That score before half was huge,” said Wells “Talon Stephens made a great catch on a good throw from Logan (Plumlee).
“We always try to get the ball first in the second half,” continued the coach. “If we can score right before half and come out and score again, we have double dipped and that is hard to overcome.”
Harrison didn’t look extremely sharp in the first half after picking up 117 yards. Adjustments were made in the lockerroom and the results were obvious.
“We attacked the weak side of their defense in the second half,” said the coach. “Our run game was outstanding in that half. Defensively, we didn’t have to adjust much. We had a great game plan and the players executed it very well.”
The Panthers are believed to be a team to challenge for the 5A-South crown as Harrison is expected to battle for the 5A-West championship. The win by Harrison gives the Goblins state-wide recognition.
“That was a huge win against a ranked team,” stated the coach. “Its always good to start the season off with a big win. Now we will focus on Mountain Home.”
The coach was excited about the improvement that was made.
“We improved a ton from our benefit game until the Magnolia game,” he said. “Our defense showed a huge improvement. Part of that is you really don’t gameplan for the benefit game, you just play and evaluate players.”
Wells was happy with what he saw in his team.
“I though our effort was great,” he said. “We played Goblin football and if we do that each week we will have a chance every Friday.”
Beck Jones led the Harrison offensive attack. He had nine carries for 50 yards. Brodey Gilliam, who scored Harrison’s first touchdown of the season had seven rushes for 46 yards. Madden had seven carries for 43 yards; Alex Mills, eight carries, 33 yards; Tristan Thompson, one carry, 10 yards; and Vann Richards, two rushes, 10 yards.
Madden scored twice for Harrison and Gilliam had one touchdown.
Plumlee was 6-of-17 for 97 yard and one touchdown.
Block had one reception for 30 yards; Sloan Barrett, three catches for 28 yards; Stephens, one catch for 20 yards; and Gilliam, one catch, 19 yards.
Brock Bardwell completed two point after attempts.
The Goblins will be focusing on Mountain Home this week. Kick off will be in Bomber Stadium at 6 p.m. on Friday.