ALMA Greenbrier continued its assault on 5AWest Conference defenses Friday, but a 49-17 rout of Alma at Airedale Stadium was as much about the Panthers’ defense as their offense.
The Greenbrier first team defense held Alma to a field goal before reserves gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns after the running clock rule was invoked.
“We’re not bad on defense,” Greenbrier Coach Randy Tribble said. “I thought our kids took the challenge to show people we’re really good on defense. I’m proud of the way they played.”
The Airedales (6-2, 4-1) finished with 391 yards on offense, but 170 of that came in the fourth quarter against the reserves. The Panthers (8-0, 5-0) held Alma to 108 yards in the first half en route to a 35-3 halftime lead.
The Panthers’ first drive ended with Alma’s Keith Shultz blocking a punt to give the Airedales possession at Greenbrier’s 16. But they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Stephen McMurray.
Quarterback Neal Burcham then warmed up for the Panthers.
He passed for 61 of the 64 yards on Greenbrier’s next possession, hitting Seth Peters for a 5-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 6:38 left in the first quarter.
Greenbrier forced a punt, and Burcham completed all three of his passes on a 76-yard drive, capping it with a 49-yard pass to Austin Fischer with 1:37 left in the quarter.
Jesse May intercepted Alma quarterback Brady Bradley, setting up a 4-yard run by Burcham for a 21-3 lead with 9:45 left in the first half.
The defense got going with Jojo Oluokun tipping a Bradley pass to himself, then sprinting 42 yards for a touchdown with 8:47 left in the half.
Alma Coach Todd Dilbeck said having to settle for the early field goal, then throwing two interceptions, stopped the Airdales.
“We’ve got to learn to stay focused through four quarters,” Dilbeck said.
Burcham and Fischer hooked up for a 6-yard touchdown with 1:21 left to give Greenbrier a 35-3 halftime lead.
Greenbrier’s defense held on fourth down for the second time in the game on Alma’s first possession of the second half, this time at its 2.
Burcham led a 10-play, 98-yard drive to seal the victory, hitting 7 of 7 passes for 89 yards on the drive before Fischer ran the final yard for a 42-3 lead with 2:24 left in the third quarter.
The defense added another touchdown when May raced 36 yards with a fumble with 11:34 left in the game.
“We shut them down pretty good,” Tribble said. “We bent a little but I thought our kids really got after the football.”
Burcham, who tied a state record last week with eight touchdown passes against Siloam Springs, finished 28 of 33for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns. Peters was his favorite target, catching 12 passes for 168 yards. Fischer had seven catches for 105 yards.
Burcham wasn’t flustered by Alma’s pass rush.
“He’s smooth,” Dilbeck said. “He’s the best quarterback in the state. He had plenty of time and when he didn’t have time he scrambles. He can do some great things with it.”
MORRILTON 42, HARRISON 7
HARRISON - Morrilton scored two touchdowns in the first four minutes and rolled from there at Garrison Stadium.
Morrilton (4-4, 2-3 5A-West) put the game away on the last play of the first half when LaQuanta Canady returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown and a 35-0 lead over Harrison (1-7, 0-5), meaning the entire second half would be played with a running clock.
Morrilton set the tone on the first offensive play when quarterback David Ford connected on a screen pass to Montrell Hood for a 50-yard gain to Harrison’s 12. Paris Avery scored two plays later from the 5 to give Morrilton a 7-0 lead with 11:11 left in the first quarter.