RUSSELLVILLE -- It wasn't the cleanest end to a game Fort Smith Southside Coach Kim Dameron has seen, but he's more than happy to take the final result.
Southside erased a 10-point deficit to Russellville at the start of the fourth quarter to earn a 21-17 victory at Cyclone Stadium and give Dameron his first victory as the Mavericks' coach.
Sophomore David Sorg found Conner Austin for a 69-yard touchdown pass with two minutes remaining to cap the Mavericks' comeback.
"This win was fantastic," Dameron said. "We made plenty of mistakes. They made plenty of mistakes. But in the final minutes, we made the plays. I couldn't be more proud of this whole team. We tried to give it away. But I'm so proud of this defense. I'm proud of all these kids competing until the very end."
Russellville (1-1) had two chances to regain the lead, but an interception by Davon Soloman ended the Cyclones' first opportunity. The Cyclones recovered a fumble at the Southside 21 on the ensuing play, but ran out of downs at the 4 with 58 seconds to play.
"We won a game just like this two weeks ago," Russellville Coach Jeff Weaver said. "But this time it didn't go our way. I told the kids we could easily be 2-0 and easily be 0-2. There is a lot we can learn from this one. Whoever lost that game was going to blame themselves. We are going to get back to work and fix our mistakes now."
The Cyclones led 17-7 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Sorg, making his first varsity start, hit junior wide receiver and former starting quarterback Luke Wyatt for a 21-yard touchdown with 11 minutes remaining to cut Russellville's lead to 17-14.
Sorg finished 12 of 26 passing for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wyatt finished with 3 catches for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"He moved out to wide receiver and made plays for us," Dameron said of Wyatt. "We knew he could do that. He moved to a new position because we are just trying to get playmakers on the field. He is a team player. And for a sophomore quarterback to come in and get him the ball in his first start, it was huge."
Southside senior running back Jackson Riddle finished with 27 carries for 133 yards.
"On offense, I know it doesn't look like it, but we are getting better," Dameron said. "The level of competition we have played has made us better. We needed the opponents we faced in the first two games to show us how to get better. I'm proud of these kids."
Russellville senior Brayden Whitford completed 24 of 43 passes for 354 yards and a touchdown. Gavin Graham had seven catches for 181 yards and a score, while Brady Burnett added 10 catches for 105 yards.
The Cyclones needed just five plays after halftime to take a 17-7 lead in the third quarter. Whitford found Graham for a 71-yard touchdown with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. It was all Southside after that, as the Mavericks defense didn't allow points in the final quarter.
Russellville was able to take a 10-7 lead into the break over Southside with the help of its defense and special teams.
Eli Toland returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown to give Russellville a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Tristan Wheelus added a 21-yard field goal later in the first quarter for a 10-0 advantage.
Sorg's and Wyatt's first scoring connection was good for 75 yards early in the second quarter.
Fort Smith Southside 21, Russellville 17
Russ — 34 interception return by Toland (Wheelus kick), 8:46
Russ — FG 21 Wheelus, 2:42
South — Wyatt 75 pass from Sorg (DeLassus kick), 10:09
Russ — Graham 71 pass from Whitford (Wheelus kick), 10:04
South — Wyatt 21 pass from Sorg (DeLassus kick), 11:00
South — Austin 69 pass from Sorg (DeLassus kick), 2:17