Little Rock Central needed 44 seconds for its first touchdown, then scored a second with 9:55 remaining in the first quarter on its way to a 27-13 victory over Fort Smith Southside at Quigley Stadium in Little Rock on Friday night.
The Tigers (5-4, 2-4 7A-Central) assured themselves of a playoff berth with the victory and losses by Southside (1-8, 0-6) and Fort Smith Northside (2-7, 0-6).
"We controlled the first half, but after halftime we made some errors and that could have hurt us," Little Rock Central Coach Kent Laster said.
"Our quarterback [Lawson Gunn] made an ill-advised throw that turned into a pick-six, and we muffed another punt. That's where they got the two touchdowns."
Laster also praised his defense, which recovered a fumble, blocked a punt and sacked Southside quarterbacks twice.
The Tigers needed only three plays to score on their first possession. Two running plays picked up a first down, then Sam Franklin went around the left side and outran the Mavericks for a 54-yard touchdown with 11:16 left in the first quarter.
After a touchback on the kickoff, Southside coughed up the ball on its first play, putting the Tigers at the Mavericks' 21.
On the third play of the drive, Gunn passed to TJ Pennington for a 12-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead with 9:55 remaining in the opening quarter.
A pass interference call and a Gunn pass to Logan Haymon gave the Tigers a fourth and 1 at the 13. After a timeout, Laster opted for the field goal, and Kelling Baker was good on a 30-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead with 9:33 left in the first half.
Southside kept the ball for almost eight minutes, but turned the ball over when a fourth-down pass was short. The Mavericks' defense forced another punt, but a pass with three seconds left from the 24 was incomplete.
After stopping Southside on downs, Central kept the ball for more than five minutes, converting on a 25-yard field goal by Baker.
A muffed punt at the Central 45 gave the ball back to Southside with 2:06 left in the third quarter. The Mavericks kept the ball until the 10:33 mark of the fourth quarter when quarterback Luke Wyatt passed to Connor Austin from the 6 for Southside's first touchdown.
Southside recovered the onside kick, but a fourth-down pass from the Central 17 was incomplete.
The Tigers picked up a first down on the next possession, but linebacker Ricky Westbrook picked off a pass at the 32 and scored for Southside to cut the lead to 20-13.
After an onside-kick attempt went out of bounds at the 50, the Tigers needed three plays for Franklin to score again, this time from 42 yards for the final margin.
Sports on 11/02/2019