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With its senior leader watching from the sidelines because of injury, Arkadelphia turned to its defense to create offense to again turn the tables on Joe T. Robinson on Friday night. The Badgers scored 14 points off four Senator turnovers and got a huge play from their special teams late to walk away from Charlie George Stadium with a 28-27, 7-4A conference victory in a rematch of last season's Class 4A state championship game. "This game right here just shows how much character our players have," said Arkadelphia coach J.R. Eldridge, whose team blistered Robinson 28-0 in the final a year ago. "The way they were able to handle adversity, to be able to put on more steam on offense, defense and special teams. ... That says volumes about these guys. Even when we made mistakes, we were able to continue to put on more steam and come out of here with a victory." Arkadelphia (4-1, 1-1) needed everything it could get to hold off Robinson, especially after the Badgers lost all-everything quarterback Cannon Turner late in the first half. The senior, who was named the most valuable player of the past two Class 4A state title games and came in averaging more than 100 yards rushing, carried 8 times for only 20 yards and completed just 4-of-8 passes for 104 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions before leaving the game with just under six minutes left in the second quarter after suffering an apparent shoulder injury while returning a kickoff. He also picked off two passes from his safety spot, returning one for a 47-yard touchdown. Yet, for all the Badgers did right in his absence, it was a blocked extra point that kept them out front. Robinson pulled within one, 28-27, on an 18-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Buddy Gaston to senior wide receiver P.J. Hall with 6:20 remaining in the game. But a pair of Arkadelphia players got a hand on the ensuing point-after attempt, and the Badgers were able to seal it when senior linebacker Cole Turner recovered a fumble with 1:14 to go. Cannon Turner's exit, however, seemed to galvanize the Badgers, who overcame four turnovers themselves to break the Senators' hearts a second time. Junior Braeden Thomas, who filled in for Turner, ran for 105 of his 108 yards after halftime and finished with three touchdowns, including a go-ahead 8-yard score with 8:26 remaining in the game. Junior running back Hunter Smith ran 23 times for 143 yards for Robinson (4-1, 1-1), which had won the past three regular-season meetings between the two but couldn't get out of its own way in this one. To go along with their four giveaways, the Senators also turned the ball over on downs twice. "You're not going to win a game like this when you turn the ball over like that," Robinson coach Todd Eskola said. "That was the story of the whole game. The kids played hard, and I've got to coach better. "But when you have basically six turnovers, you're not going to win a game." Junior defensive back James Jordan returned two interceptions for touchdowns and Gaston was 9-of-19 passing for 151 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Senators, who couldn't build on its 21-14 halftime lead. Robinson covered 83 yards in eight plays, with Gaston tossing a 7-yard touchdown pass to Hall with 9:07 left in the first quarter, to grab a 7-0 lead. Turner countered quickly on Arkadelphia's first play from scrimmage by finding Thomas behind the Senators' secondary for a 69-yard score. Turner's interception return gave the Badgers a 14-7 lead, but Jordan responded with a 48-yard scoring return to tie it with 11:18 showing in the second quarter. A little more than six minutes later, Jordan shifted the advantage back to Robinson with an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown. "Our defense did a great job," Eskola said. "They played their butts off. ... That's what's so disappointing about it. The offense just couldn't get it going like we wanted to." Thomas tied the game at 21-21 with a 4-yard score with 5:46 remaining in the third quarter, then gave Arkadelphia the lead back for good with his eight-yarder in the fourth. "He's is an outstanding athlete and made some things happen when we had to have it," Eldridge said of Thomas. "He showed confidence and stay poised throughout that second half and really kept us going on offense. But the effort from everybody, especially that defense, was just unbelievable. "Getting to the football, being really violent when we got there and then finishing off plays. ... I just can't say enough about them."...

10/7/2019

ARKADELPHIA, Ark. — Nashville went into the belly of the Class 4A beast and came away with one of the program's biggest regular-season football victories. Senior Jhonny Pioquinto kicked a 30-yard field goal with 21 seconds to play and the Scrappers held on to defeat the two-time defending Class 4A state champion Arkadelphia Badgers, 22-21, Friday night at Badger Stadium. The field goal didn't come without controversy, however. Arkadelphia players and Coach J.R. Eldridge thought they had heard a whistle from one of the officials during the attempt and they stopped as Pioquinto knocked his kick through the uprights. Eldridge went out to midfield to argue with officials and received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that resulted in Nashville's ensuing kickoff being at the Arkadelphia 45. The Badgers couldn't muster anything offensively, as they had a false start penalty on the first play of their final drive, then senior quarterback Cannon Turner threw four consecutive incompletions to end the game. "I thought it was from an official," Eldridge said of the whistle he thought he heard. "The whistle came after the ball had been snapped, so my guys stopped. I'll probably see it on film. "But those things happen. Bottom line, we didn't do enough earlier in the game. Nashville's got a good football team." Nashville (4-0, 1-0 7-4A Conference) snapped a 13-game winning streak by Arkadelphia (3-1, 0-1). The Badgers' last loss was on Sept. 28, 2018, against Joe T. Robinson. They went on to win 10 games in a row and their second consecutive Class 4A state championship. Scrappers Coach Mike Volarvich was proud of how his team responded after trailing 21-13 with 6:27 left in the third quarter. "We talked about it for the last two weeks. We felt like if we could be in the game in the second half, I thought we could pull it out," Volarvich said. "I know Arkadelphia prides itself as a second-half team. But we do, too." Junior running back Keyshawn Stewart rushed for 63 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries for Nashville. Quarterback Ty Gordon, also a junior, finished with 121 yards passing and one touchdown, an 81-yard pass to senior wide receiver Ty Basiliere. With 6:32 remaining, senior running back Jacobe Jefferson scored from 7 yards out to cut the Badgers' lead to 21-19, but Stewart's 2-point conversion pass attempt was no good. Arkadelphia then drove to the Nashville 28 before its drive stalled with Turner's incomplete pass that left 2:13 remaining and three timeouts for the Scrappers. From there, Nashville went to work. Stewart threw a 32-yard pass to Basiliere that put the ball at the Arkadelphia 40. Senior running back Carmillias Morrison ran 12 yards to the Arkadelphia 12, which helped set up Pioquinto's field goal. "He's been money," Volarvich said of Pioquinto. "That last drive, our goal was to get into field goal range because we have all the confidence in the world in that guy." The Badgers trailed 6-0 at halftime after not being able to take advantage of two interceptions by junior defensive back Kalan Jones. But Arkadelphia took a 21-13 lead with 6:37 left in the third quarter, with two 8-yard touchdown runs by senior running back Kyren Harrison and a 3-yard scoring run by Turner. Stewart provided the only scoring play of the first half with an 11-yard touchdown run with 8:11 left in the second quarter to give Nashville a 6-0 lead as Pioquinto missed the extra-point attempt. For Arkadelphia, Turner was held to 43 yards passing, but had 124 yards rushing on 12 carries. Harrison rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. ...

9/29/2019

ARKADELPHIA- The Arkadelpia Badgers were'nt worried about a two possession deficit. Instead, the two-time defending Class 4A state........

9/14/2019

BENTON -- Coming off a 2017 state title, Arkadelphia was wondering what was wrong after dropping its first two games of 2018 en route to an 0-5 start. A year later and coming off a second consecutive Class 4A title, the Badgers (2-0) are in a better state of mind. On Friday night, they disposed of their second consecutive Class 6A team after rallying past Benton 33-20 at Panther Stadium. "We wanted to be committed to having a better start,'' Arkadelphia Coach J.R. Eldridge said, "but a football season is a whole body of work. "That body of work that started last season has produced a 10-game winning streak for the Badgers, who trailed 14-7 until a drive late in the first half closed their gap to 14-13 at the break. "That was huge," Eldridge said of the touchdown. "We came out on fire in the first quarter and got away from that. Then I feel like we kind of got back to that."...

9/11/2019

BENTON -- Coming off a state title, the Arkadelphia Badgers were wondering what was wrong after dropping their first two games en route to an 0-5 start. A year later, and coming off a second straight Class 4A title, the Badgers (2-0) are in a better state of mind. On Friday night they disposed of their second straight Class 6A team as they rallied past the Benton Panthers 33-20. "We wanted to be committed to having a better start,'' said Arkadelphia coach J.R. Eldridge. "It's week one, and we just had week zero, but a football season is a whole body of work." That body of work that started last season has produced a 10-game winning streak for the Badgers, who trailed 14-7 until a drive late in the first half made it 14-13 at thre break. "That was huge," said Eldridge. "We came out on fire in the first quarter and got away from that. Then I feel like we kinda got back to that." The Badgers scored easily on their first drive with Kyren Harrison scoring on a 31-yard run at the 9:45 mark. It stayed that was until an Austin Drewry interception set Benton at the Badger 39. The score came on a 5-yard pass from Garrett Brown to Braden Murdock with 25 second left in the quarter. After Cannon Turner's 68-yard punt pinned the Panthers at the 2, Benton (0-2) answered with a 13-play, 98-yard drive to take the lead. Gavin Wells, on a halfback pass, hit a wide-open Jaden Nash for a 20-yard scoring pass on fourth down. Bryan Araujo made it 14-7. Harrison got his second score of the night on a 2-yard run with 1:02 left in the half. The PAT was missed to put Benton up 14-13 at the half. Benton's last big moment came when Wells grabbed a tunnel screen from Brown and went 82 yards for the score just two plays into the second half. The PAT was blocked by Jason Campbell leaving it 20-13. "We challenged each other in the locker room, and what we talked about was putting on more steam and coming out in the second half and really wanting it and being the team that plays the hardest and executes the best,'' said Eldridge. "I think our players really did a good job of coming out and having that burning desire to make plays. And that is what they did. Braeden Thomas, who had a 14-yard reception in the drive, scored on a 15-yard run. The Badgers missed the try for 2 and still trailed 20-19 with 8:11 left in the third quarter. A blindside hit on Brown not only knocked the Benton quarterback out of the game but forced a fumble that Rickey Rogers recovered and returned to the Benton 35. Turner scored on a 13-yard run six plays later and it was 25-20 after the Badgers again missed the 2-point run. Thomas added his second score on a 41-yard run around end with 13 seconds left in the third quarter. Harrison ran in the two-pointer....

9/10/2019

One thing is for certain in Class 4A in 2019: Everyone is chasing the two-time defending state champion Arkadelphia Badgers. Coach J.R. Eldridge's program is the first in Class 4A to repeat as champions since Shiloh Christian won three titles in a row from 2008-10. Last season, Arkadelphia started 0-5 and lost its first two 7-4A Conference games to Nashville and Joe T. Robinson. But the Badgers won their final 10 games and became the first team to defeat four No. 1 seeds in the playoffs to win the Class 4A state title with a 28-0 victory over Robinson. Eldridge, a former assistant coach at Ouachita Baptist University who has been at Arkadelphia since 2011, has been proud of the Badgers' success and resiliency over the past two seasons. "It's unbelievable," he said. "I feel very fortunate to be the head coach at Arkadelphia during this time. They've been a great group. They've been through a lot together. They hold the younger guys accountable every single day. They hold each other accountable." Robinson Coach Todd Eskola said playing in the 7-4A Conference has helped not only his team in the Class 4A playoffs but also Arkadelphia, especially when it knocked off No. 1 seeds Warren, Stuttgart, Shiloh Christian and his own team last season. "When you play seven games in a row in this conference, I promise you you're ready to play anyone in the state playoffs," Eskola said. "You're not going to see anything that's going to surprise you." Arkadelphia lost key starters in running back Zion Hatley, cornerback Victor Tademy and linebacker Josh Wallace. But 16 starters return, and the Badgers have 21 seniors. "It's a very mature group of seniors that come to work every day," Eldridge said. "I'm excited about that experience coming back." Senior quarterback Cannon Turner, the Class 4A state championship game's most outstanding player the past two seasons, passed for 1,299 yards with 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 scores. Turner, who enters his fourth year as the starting quarterback, has started 41 games for the Badgers. Senior running back Kyren Harrison scored five touchdowns a year ago while backing up Hatley. Former Gosnell coach Brandon Barbaree said in July that when his Pirates faced Arkadelphia in last year's Class 4A first round, the Badgers were as tough as anyone in the state. "Their effort was outstanding," Barbaree said. "I thought the way they approached the game, it was a different version of football. They do a great job of coaching them. The kids buy in. They're an outstanding football team." Arkadelphia may have won the past two state championships, but the Badgers have done it without winning the 7-4A Conference. In fact, their last conference title came in 2013. "It's a really, really tough conference," Eldridge said. "We haven't won the conference since 2013, and we've won two state championships since then. I think that says a lot about how tough our conference is." The 7-4A Conference has two teams that could challenge Arkadelphia come November. Robinson, which has won the past two 7-4A league titles, will be led by junior quarterback Buddy Gaston, who backed up Greyson Tackett and threw five touchdown passes a year ago. Nashville was one of the youngest teams in Class 4A in 2018. The Scrappers bring back 11 starters, including junior running back Keyshawn Stewart, who rushed for 1,180 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Outside of the 7-4A, there's Warren in the 8-4A despite the graduation of wide receiver Treylon Burks, who is now at the University of Arkansas, and Shiloh Christian from the 1-4A. Warren will count on senior running back Vincent Steppes, a two-year starter for Coach Bo Hembree. At Shiloh Christian, the Saints return senior quarterback Eli Reece, who passed for 2,601 yards and 32 touchdowns to lead his team to the Class 4A semifinals. Arkadelphia has a chance to win three consecutive state championships, but hat's not the focus of the Badgers, Eldridge said. Instead, he wants his team to get off to a better start than it did in 2018. "We want to come to work every day and move forward," he said. "Last year started off really bad. We started 0-5. That was tough. "It was a great learning experience for myself and our football team, to not be a predictor of games. You're going to get everybody's best when you step on the football field." Eskola hopes the Senators are the team that can dethrone the Badgers. "We've gone one step farther than we did a year before," said Eskola, whose team played in the Class 4A quarterfinals in 2016, the semifinals in 2017 and the state final last season. "I guess we need to go one step farther. I certainly hope so."...

8/22/2019

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