Miserable weather conditions hampered Arkadelphia's offensive execution at times during Saturday night's Class 4A state title game, but it seemed to motivate a Badgers' defense that head Coach J.R. Eldridge said was built to withstand anything.
"It's been a habit for them over these past 10 games," Eldridge explained after his team beat Joe T. Robinson 28-0 to capture their second consecutive championship. "Any doubt they may have had early in the season kind of eliminated itself during the times that we were able to win. Our guys just kept coming back to work, kept believing.
"And it all culminated [Saturday], in this type of atmosphere, in these kinds of conditions. I couldn't be any prouder."
The temperature at kickoff was 34 degrees, and it never rose above that reading during the game. Heavy rain also fell throughout, but none of that seemed to affect the Badgers' defenders.
Arkadelphia dominated its 7-4A Conference rival, and it was the play of the defense that opened the door to another title.
The Badgers sacked Senators senior quarterback Greyson Tackett 6 times, forced 2 turnovers and allowed 221 yards of offense, 150 below Robinson's season average. The Badgers were so overwhelming on defense that they didn't allow the Senators (12-3) to cross midfield until their second series after halftime, and that occurred after Robinson recovered a fumble at the 50.
In fact, a fumble on the Senators' first offensive play led to Arkadelphia's first score of the game after the Badgers took over 37 yards from the end zone.
"We knew coming in that turnovers were going to be a difference in the ballgame," Robinson Coach Todd Eskola said. "We gave them one on the first play of the ballgame. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot offensively."
Arkadelphia (10-5) struggled defensively early in the season, giving up an average of 37 points per game in losing its first five games, including 42 in a 28-point loss to the Senators on Sept. 28. In the nine games after that defeat, the Badgers allowed just under seven points per outing, giving them confidence a rematch with the Senators would go differently.
"With everything we've been through, no one really believed in us," Arkadelphia senior defensive back Victor Tademy said. "We started out 0-5, but we came together perfectly at the right time. For us to come out and do this, to shut out the No. 1 team in Class 4A is huge.
"We wanted to set the tone by coming out violent, vicious and take their soul from the start. We had something to prove, and we left the results out there on the field."
Robinson had averaged 39 points during its four playoff victories but mounted only one serious scoring march in the game.
"During media day earlier in the week, the Robinson players were saying they could score at will and that it would be an offensive battle," said Badgers senior linebacker Josh Wallace, who finished with a game-high 10 tackles. "We took that personally, really personally. Our senior group had never beaten Robinson in a football game.
"So we had the mindset that not only were we going to win the football game with amazing defense, we're going to shut them out. I think we proved a point by doing just that."
Sports on 12/09/2018
Print Headline: No reason to badger defense anymore