SPRINGDALE -- The J.R. Eldridge era was put on hold Friday night but well worth the wait for the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats.
With kickoff delayed by more than an hour as the teams waited out weather issues, North Little Rock pulled away with a strong second-half effort for a 41-28 nonconference victory over host Springdale Har-Ber.
Kareame Cotton ran 11 times for 115 yards and passed for 90 more. His 73-yard scoring run late in the third quarter gave North Little Rock (1-0) the lead for good at 31-28.
Fredrick O'Donald led the Charging Wildcats with 156 yards on 19 carries. Har-Ber quarterback Drue McClendon threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Hudson Brewer ran 16 times for 79 yards and a touchdown for Har-Ber (0-2).
Eldridge won state titles in 2017 and 2018 at Arkadelphia and is now in his first year at North Little Rock, which has advanced to the Class 7A state championship game four consecutive years.
Eldridge and the Charging Wildcats delivered in their first game, especially down the stretch.
Har-Ber led 21-17 at the half. O'Donald's 10-yard scoring run put the Charging Wildcats in front 24-21 midway through the third quarter.
Har-Ber grabbed the lead with two minutes left in the third quarter when McClendon found Errington McRae for a 17-yard touchdown. McClendon's pass was tipped but McRae came away with the reception for a 28-24 Har-Ber advantage.
On the next play from scrimmage, Cotton broke loose for his touchdown.
Cotton scored again early in the fourth quarter. He capped a drive with a 6-yard touchdown run for a 38-28 edge.
North Little Rock added a 34-yard field goal from Liam Selhorst to help add to its lead late in the fourth quarter.
Har-Ber turned the ball over on downs twice in the fourth quarter, allowing North Little Rock to continue its winning ways over 7A-West opponents. The Charging Wildcats have not lost to a 7A-West team since 2016.
North Little Rock marched 56 yards on its opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. Cotton found Jiquori Stewart for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Har-Ber's first touchdown was set up by an interception by Braien Williams. McClendon ran for a 65-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
Har-Ber grabbed a 13-7 lead in the second quarter when Brewer scored on a 5-yard run.
North Little Rock battled back to take a 14-13 lead on its next possession. Cotton connected with Vaughn Phillips for a 12-yard touchdown pass on third down.
Har-Ber responded with an 82-yard scoring drive when McClendon found Ethan Fender for a 28-yard touchdown pass. McClendon then connected with Luke Adams on the two-point conversion.
Just one offense play later, Har-Ber got a interception from Liem Taylor. But the North Little Rock defense held, forcing a four-and-out with the drive starting at its own 40.
North Little Rock pulled to within 21-17 when Selhorst booted a 40-yard field goal with a minute left before halftime.
Har-Ber drove to from its own 35 to the NLR 15 in the game's final 1:06 but failed to come away with any points.
North Little Rock 41, Springdale Har-Ber 28
NLR — Stewart 35 pass from Cotton (Selhorst kick) ,8:19
Har — McClendon 65 run (Ramirez kick), 3:48
Har — Brewer 5 run (kick failed), 10:28
NLR — Phillips 12 pass from Cotton (Selhorst kick), 6:45
Har — Fender 28 pass from McClendon (McClendon pass to Adams), 3:46
NLR — FG Selhorst 40, 1:12
NLR — O’Donald 10 run (Selhorst kick), 3:42
Har — McRae 17 pass from McClendon (Ramirez kick), 2:42
NLR — Cotton 73 run (Selhorst kick), 2:26
NLR — Cotton 6 run (Selhorst kick), 10:11
NLR — FG Selhorst 34, 6:43