By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
As presented Saturday night in a highly-viewed live stream webcast on SWARK Today, the Prescott Curley Wolves were five yards short in a strong bid to upset the undefeated Booneville Bearcats on the road, falling 34-31 in the state football semifinals in the final seconds.
The Bearcats, who were behind to Prescott 31-27 with 2:06 to play, scored what proved to be the winning touchdown on a run from the Curley Wolves 3-yard line to seize the lead back 34-31 with the PAT.
But Booneville’s score left 2:03 on the clock, and Prescott still had its three timeouts remaining, so there was plenty of time and resources left for the Wolves to mount a comeback to either tie on a field goal or win outright.
When QB Ryan Johnson broke loose for 18-yards on Prescott’s first down play after the Bearcats scored, the Wolves appeared to be on their way. Derriun Thompson then followed up with eight more yards, and Johnson, running down the right sideline, got to the Booneville 25-yard line, but looked like he was going to score before being tripped up.
Using their timeouts wisely, the Curley Wolves made it to the Bearcat nine-yard line, and used their last time out as the ball rested outside Booneville’s five-yard line with 14 seconds left to play.
But a quick Johnson pass attempt into the end zone proved to be costly as it was intercepted by the Bearcats literally at the goal line, when Booneville linebacker Cam Brasher appeared to jump the route, effectively saving the game for Booneville.
Given the way the Curley Wolves put the fight to the undefeated Bearcats, the ending for Prescott had to be especially stinging since they led the contest most of the way, and were successfully moving the ball on offense until the very end.
Playing on Saturday, instead of Friday, and playing an hour earlier, at 6 p.m., the Curley Wolves looked good and refreshed as they got the ball first and took the game’s early lead 7-0, when Johnson connected with Thompson on a 42-yard touchdown pass, and forcing the Bearcats to score on their next possession, just to keep up.
At the 8:57 mark, the two heavyweights were tied 7-7.
On their next possession, Prescott came back down the field again, making it all the way to Booneville’s 13-yard line, but a penalty on the Curley Wolves basically halted the drive. Prescott, however, did come away with points as Kicker Luis Rabadan hit on a 32-yard field goal to put the Curley Wolves back on top 10-7 at the 3:18 mark in the first period.
Booneville, whose strong suit all season has been running the ball, took their first lead 14-10, when they scored after an imposing 12-play drive that saw the Bearcats convert on not one, but two, fourth down plays.
By the time the Curley Wolves saw the ball in the second quarter, only 2:50 was left, but Prescott proved to be up for the challenge as Johnson, again going to his air game, hit Cameron Cox for 19 yards, and followed up with Keonte Franklin for 32 yards, which parked the Curley Wolves at Booneville’s eight-yard line. Runningback Alex George eventually scored on a two-yard run, and Prescott was back on top 17-14 as time ran out in the first half.
Booneville had originally deferred on the opening kickoff, so the Bearcats got the ball right away in the second half. They took advantage of the opportunity, mounting another long and imposing drive, and after holding the ball for another 12 plays, the Bearcats scored again, grabbing the lead back 20-17. A failed PAT by Booneville, however, set up what proved to be dramatic third quarter.
In a game of contrasts, Prescott’s big play potential was evident all night long as they needed just four big plays, not 12, to cover 67 yards, and with George’s second two-yard touchdown, the Curley Wolves grabbed the lead back 24-20, but the third period ended with Booneville moving downfield again and scoring to take back the lead 27-24 with 40 seconds left. As the game was unfolding, there was a strange sensation that the contest may come down to the last possession, which is eventually how it played out.
Prescott actually had the ball first to start the fourth quarter, and then, going on a 12-play drive of their own, the Curley Wolves scored on George’s third TD run to grab the lead back again 31-27, which is where it stood until the final 2:06 in the game, when Booneville emerged with what proved to be the winning touchdown on a three-yard run.
Saturday’s other 3A state semifinal game featured another Prescott nemesis, the Osceola Seminoles, playing the undefeated Rison Wildcats. Running later than the Booneville/Prescott semifinal, Osceola emerged to upset Rison 37-28, and will play Booneville on December 8 in the AAA State Championship game in Little Rock.
Osceola had eliminated Prescott 41-20 in the second-round of the 2017 playoffs.