MORRILTON – Alma wore out and wore down Morrilton on Friday.
Behind a physical offensive line and a pair of bruising blocking backs, Alma pounded out 238 yards on the ground and took advantage of five Morrilton fumbles in a 22-14 win.
Alma (3-2, 2-0 5A-West) ran 49 times and picked up big chunks of yardage in the second half.
“We knew they were going to have to help us out, we were going to have to play bend but don’t break defense and when we got the ball on the short end we were going to have to put the ball in the end zone,” Alma head coach Doug Loughridge said. “It played out exactly the way we wanted it to. That was a great football team, so to come on the road and overcome the obstacles we had to overcome, that was big.”
Malachi White ran 22 times for 125 yards and Evan Burris added 17 carries for 77 yards. Linebacker Alex Burris also had 22 yards on the ground on direct snaps and handoffs. He teamed with offensive lineman Darek Archer as blocking backs.
“We knew if we could get it to the second half (we had a chance),” Loughridge said. “We put faith in our offensive line, and just handed it off to Malachi, Evan and Alex and just let them pound, pound and pound. As soon as we got to winning the first down where we could get into some down-and-distance situations, the holes just started opening up.”
Alma took a quick 6-0 lead after Morrilton (3-2, 1-1) fumbled a handoff. White ran three yards on the first play for the touchdown by following Alex Burris and Archer into the end zone. Morrilton blocked the PAT which left Alma’s lead at 6-0 with 4:06 left in the opening quarter.
Toney Hawkins, who was most of Morrilton’s offense with 160 yards passing and 134 yards rushing, put Morrilton up 7-6 at the half on an 18-yard touchdown toss to Rayshod Criswell midway through the second quarter.
Alma went three-and-out to open the second half, but Jake Marrs pounced on the muffed punt at the 27. A holding penalty negated a promising drive, but Seth Linker put Alma up 9-7 with a 32-yard field goal with 7:00 left in the third quarter.
A penalty, one of 11 committed by the Devil Dogs for 129 yards, pushed Morrilton back to the 9 on their next drive, but Hawkins ran 72 yards through and around Alma’s defense to Alma’s 19. Hawkins helmet came off on the play and he was forced to sit out a play by rule. Morrilton’s backup quarterback fumbled a handoff on the next play. Curtis Lloyd recovered the fumble with 1:05 left in the third quarter.
Alma then went 79 yards in nine plays by grinding out six first downs before White ran 13 yards for a touchdown. White was stopped about the 7 on the play, but a big push by offensive linemen Mitch Tillery and Michael Nicholson ended in the end zone which pushed Alma’s lead to 16-7.
After Alma stuffed Morrilton on fourth down, the Airedales started driving again. On third down from midfield, Evan Burris’ deep pass was intercepted by Criswell at the 10. While Lloyd and Heath Friddle were trying to tackle Criswell, Friddle stripped the ball away and ran five yards for a touchdown with 2:01 left. Alma missed the extra point, but had a 22-7 lead.
‘”Their plan was good, and they made us earn it,” Morrilton head coach Cody McNabb said. “We had too many self-inflected wounds. We turned the ball over. They turned the game into what they needed to — kind of a slugfest and a defensive football game.”
Rogers 42, Van Buren 21
Van Buren could not overcome a slow start and lost at Rogers on Friday.
It was the second consecutive 7A/6A-West loss for the Pointers.
The Mounties (4-1, 1-1) held the ball for more than 37 minutes while rushing for 463 yards and never led the Pointers (1-4, 0-2) by less than two touchdowns in cruising to the win. Rogers back Brandon Workman rushed for 181 yards on 15 carries and scored five touchdowns.
Michael Cureton was 20-of-30 passing for 171 and a touchdown for Van Buren. Cureton and Tyrone Joseph each added rushing touchdowns for the Pointers, who host Har-Ber next week.
On the touchdown run, Morrilton was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and Alma kicked off from the Morrilton 45. Criswell fielded the kick just inches in front of the end zone and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown with 1:48 left.
Alma took possession after the onside kick went out of bounds and ran two first downs to clinch the win.
Morrilton managed just 15 offensive plays in the second half on its three possessions.
“The defense played great,” Loughridge said. “The biggest thing was we kept everything underneath and we tackled. We were closing and we were hitting. Every time they got up, they got up slower.”