Arkadelphia needed a spark in its Class 4A semifinal game last Friday at Pea Ridge.
It turned to Zion Hatley.
The junior running back made sure the Badgers advanced to Saturday's Class 4A state championship game against Warren at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium with his best game of the season in the Class 4A semifinals a week ago.
Arkadelphia trailed 10-0 early in the second quarter when Hatley scored on a 66-yard run to pull his team within 10-7. It was part of Arkadelphia's 28-point second quarter as the Badgers took a 28-18 halftime lead and went on to win 51-26.
Hatley also had scoring runs of 12, 4, 2 and 22 yards against the Blackhawks.
Arkadelphia Coach J.R. Eldridge understood the importance of Hatley's performance.
"It was good for us," Eldridge said. "He did have a great game."
"We had to keep pushing, even though we were down 10-0," Hatley said.
Hatley is among the state's leaders in rushing with 1,679 yards and 34 touchdowns on 206 carries in 12 of Arkadelphia's 13 games on the field.
He missed the Badgers' Week 5 game at Joe T. Robinson, and the Badgers did not play their Class 4A first-round game against Helena-West Helena on Nov. 10 because of a bus accident on Interstate 30 involving Helena-West Helena.
Hatley has rushed for at least 100 yards in 10 of Arkadelphia's 12 games on the field. His season-high rushing total came in a 49-0 victory over Hot Springs on Sept. 15 when he finished with 191 yards and 4 touchdowns on 16 carries.
When asked what his most memorable game was, Hatley did not have one.
"I just do my best so the team can win and go on to the next week," Hatley said.
Eldridge praised Hatley for his team-first mentality with the Badgers.
"His stats don't even show how good he is," Eldridge said. "The majority of the games, he was out early. He didn't play in the second half of several games. So he could easily have over 2,000 yards.
"He's done a great job of playing hard and being a good leader for our football team."
Arkadelphia's journey to its first state championship game in 30 years is a special one for Hatley, the son of former Gurdon running back Brannon Hatley.
"We're making history. We're all doing it out there for each other, for the person next to us," Zion Hatley said.
The Lumberjacks have won four state championships since 2000 under Coach Bo Hembree. Saturday's matchup is one that Hatley and the Badgers are looking forward to.
"It's going to be a good one," Hatley said. "They're a good team. I've watched them on film. I've watched them over and over.
"I know they're going to bring it, but so are we."
Eldridge has at least one more season with Hatley, but he's been appreciative of having him in the Badgers' backfield.
"Zion is a really special young man," Eldridge said. "He does a great job for us. He's good off the field. He's a great young man. He's good in the classroom. People love him. He's got a great attitude.
"He comes to work everyday. He's got a lot of athletic ability. He's very fast. He's focused on getting better every day. It shows on Friday nights."
Sports on 12/08/2017
Print Headline: Hatley helps Badgers to 4A title match