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Prep Football: Turnovers doom Van Buren early

Van Buren and Springdale Har-Ber came into Friday’s game as turnover-prone teams.

It continued for the Pointers.

Har-Ber who took advantage of four first-half turnovers in a 43-6 mercy-rule win against Van Buren in 7A/6A-West action.

The Pointer turnovers turned into 21 points which fueled the rout for the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1).

“I thought we played well defensively tonight,” Har-Ber coach Chris Wood said. “Give Van Buren credit. They did some nice stuff offensively early, but we were able to force some turnovers and create some opportunities for our offense and we were able to capitalize.”

The big play, though, was on special teams. A 99-yard kickoff return by Matt Garrison with 4:26 left in the first quarter gave Har-Ber a 15-6 lead.

Van Buren (1-5, 0-3), thanks to Tyrone Joseph recovering a muffed punt at the Har-Ber 15, had just scored on a 1-yard keeper by Michael Cureton to get to within 8-6 until Garrison’s return gave the momentum back to the Wildcats.

“We muffed a punt and Van Buren turned it into points,” Wood said. “We needed to respond and we did with Matt’s return. They had the momentum at that point, but we took it back and we controlled the game from there.”

The muffed punt was Har-Ber’s only turnover of the game.

That was the start of 35 unanswered points by Har-Ber on five consecutive possession. The Pointers did not recover from that barrage, fueled in part by a pair of interceptions.

“We’re still making critical mistakes and we have to execute better,” Van Buren head coach Brooks Coatney said. “Har-Ber is a really good team and give them a lot of credit. They are going to win a lot of games the rest of the season.”

The Wildcats offensive starters played for all but the last possession of the first half. Har-Ber’s offense was balanced, recording 13 first downs while gaining 293 yards in the first half — 147 rushing, 146 passing.

Though playing less than a half, Har-Ber quarterback Kyle Pianalto threw nine passes and completed six for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Sain Matthew gained 82 yards on just seven carries for three touchdowns.

Van Buren was held to just 123 total yards in the first half as the Wildcat defense had 11 tackles for losses.

“We have to lick our wounds and get back next week and try to get better in practice,” Coatney said. “There was some small areas where we improved. Our job as coaches is to keep our players head high and keep them motivated for the next game.”

The Pointers host Springdale next Friday.

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