FORT SMITH -- Andrew Clark picked a perfect time to get his first ever interception.
Josh Pinter (left) and Zach Gee of Little Rock Catholic try to run down quarterback Cooper Johnson of Fort Smith Southside during the first quarter in Fort Smith.
Clark stepped in front of Andre Sale's pass near the Fort Smith Southside end zone to end a potential Little Rock Catholic score, and the Rebels used two fourth-quarter touchdowns to claim a 38-35 victory at Jim Rowland Stadium on Friday night in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs.
"I didn't really see anything," Clark said. "It hit my hands and reflexes got the ball for me."
Clark's interception late in the third quarter sparked the Rebels (7-4), who saw leads of 14-0 and 21-7 evaporate in the first half. The game was tied 21-21 at halftime.
Following the interception, the Rebels drove the length of the field to take a 24-21 lead on Derek Gutierrez's 24-yard field goal with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. Southside never relinquished the lead after that.
Catholic Coach John Fogleman said the interception was a turning point in the game when it looked like the Rockets (4-7) were moving in for a go-ahead score.
"We did come back and hold them to three, but that obviously was a big difference," Fogleman said. "That was our only mistake but it was a big mistake. He was just in the right place at the right time."
After Southside forced a punt, the Rebels moved into scoring position on Parker Dixon's 50-yard run that moved the ball to the Catholic 33. Kobe Rogers did the rest, barreling in on a 30-yard run and a 31-21 lead.
Catholic drove the Rockets 92 yards in 14 plays, capped by Lance Harville-Thomas' 2-yard touchdown run with 6:12 left in the fourth quarter. Harville-Thomas finished with 183 yards rushing, and his score cut Southside's lead to 31-28.
The Rebels again answered. Senior quarterback Cooper Johnson, who rushed for 188 yards and was 6-of-12 passing for 118 yards, led Southside to the game-clinching score. Johnson ripped off a 10-yard run before Dixon bolted for 50 yards get the Rebels inside the Catholic 20. Johnson capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Catholic scored a late touchdown to pull within 38-35, but failed to execute an onside kick as Southside ran out the clock.
"We made a lot of explosive plays," Southside Coach Jeff Williams said. "In this deal, it [doesn't] matter if you win by 30 or you win by 1, it's all about just moving on."
Southside will travel to Cabot next week for a second-round playoff game.
Sports on 11/14/2015
Print Headline: Late touchdowns lift Rebels