Clarksville scored early and often Friday as the Panthers beat Huntsville 62-13 at the Eagles’ homecoming.
The Panthers improved to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in conference, while the Eagles fell to 1-5 and 0-3.
Huntsville was unable to generate any offense in the first half as the Panthers led 28-0 after one quarter and 48-0 at the half.
Huntsville coach Matt Williams said following the game that the Eagles did not come ready to play Friday night.
“I told them and they know, what we did in the first half was not Eagle football,” Williams said.
“That was not anything close to what we’re about. I told them they weren’t ready to play. I don’t know why. It starts with me. I’m responsible for getting them ready to play and they didn’t play well in the first half, so I take a lot of responsibility for that.”
Huntsville played without junior Slayter Watkins for a second straight game. The starting running back, linebacker and punter was in street clothes Friday, as was senior Alejandro Gamez.
“It’s been crazy with all the injuries. It’s been a rough year,” Williams said.
“We finally got Justin (Reynolds) back tonight, that was great. Alejandro’s still out. He’ll be back Monday. Slayter’s day to day. [We] thought he was going to get to play tonight, then before the game he was just kind of feeling it. ... It’s a good call. We’d rather have him back for four games than for one, just in case. We think he’ll be back next week.”
Watkins injured a calf muscle three weeks ago, but was feeling a tightness in his knee before the game.
Sophomore Curt Ferguson was out with a knee injury while senior Tristyn Woodruff recovered from a shoulder injury, then hurt an ankle in a non-football injury.
Junior quarterback Brooks Wiggins was back in action after missing time with concussion protocol.
“Brooks is back, Brooks is good. He did a lot of good things tonight,” Williams said.
“We’re kind of doing the two-platoon thing right now [with Wiggins and sophomore QB Braden Carter]. Both of them have earned that. We’re kind of giving both of them a chance to see who gets a hot hand. If one of them gets a hot hand we’ll go with them.
“We’re better but we still need to get some people healthy,” Williams said.
Huntsville in the first half had just 21 yards of offense on 28 plays. The Eagles had 20 running plays for only 9 yards.
Carter and Wiggins finished with 13 completions in 25 attempts for 131 yards.
Clarksville finished with 399 yards of offense, including 281 on the ground. The Panthers had 255 yards on 29 plays in the first half.
Senior Nicholas Buckner on the second play of the game ran untouched on a 46-yard keeper over the left side.
Buckner faked an inside reverse, then ran behind a large offensive line for the end zone. Sergio Fernandez kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Following a short Huntsville punt, Buckner ran the same play with the same result, this time a 32-yard touchdown run. The kick made it 14-0 Clarksville with 8:06 left in the first.
Garrett Waddill returned two pass interceptions for scores. The first came with 7:52 left in the first from 38 yards out.
Buckner scored from a yard out with 1:07 left in the first. Fernandez added the kick for a 28-0 score.
Bryce Buckner tossed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Buckner with 6:40 left in the first half.
Waddill returned his second intercepted pass 30 yards for a score with 4:55 left in the first half to make the score 42-0. With just 10 seconds left in the half, N. Buckner found Jamie White for a 10-yard TD pass. The 48-0 score at halftime meant the second half was played with a running clock.
Clarksville played reserves in the second half, but with 6:37 left in third, Ben Hargrave ran untouched up the middle for a 35-yard score. The extra-point kick made it 55-0.
At the end of the third period, Wiggins found sophomore Tucker Bradley for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Oscar Martinez kicked the extra point and the third quarter ended 55-7.
Carter with 5:51 left in the game scored on a keeper from a yard out. The kick failed.
Easton Burkett with 2:58 left in the game ran 79 yards untouched up the middle. The extra-point kick made the final 62-13.
Clarksville last year scored more than 60 against Huntsville.
“We felt we had a good game plan this year. We preached about it all week,” Williams said.
“It’s still tough to overcome whenever they bust a couple of them on you, it’s real easy to start second-guessing what you’re seeing. I think that’s what we were doing a little bit, second-guessing what we were seeing. Whenever that happens it’s kind of tough to overcome.”
Williams at one point during the game called a time out and called his team together on the sideline. He said he told the team they weren’t playing like Huntsville teams normally perform.
“They’ve always played hard, they’ve always responded. They responded better in the second half,” Williams said.
“All we basically told them was ‘guys, what we saw in the first half was not us.’ That’s the first time this year that I’ve been disappointed in how they played and how they handled the adversity of the first half. I didn’t think we handled it very well. They responded better in the second half.”
Clarksville featured several players who were 6-foot, 4-inches tall and over 300 pounds.
“They’re one of the biggest teams we’ll face and we knew that going in, that they had size,” Williams said.
“We’ve got to stop listening to the people that say we can’t. We’ve got to stop listening to that because we can. We deserve to be on that field with those guys. We can play with those guys ... we can’t mentally beat ourselves before we walk out there and think about what people say.”
Williams said the Eagles, although facing a team with nearly three times the number of players, have to stay positive.
“We’ve got to believe in ourselves and that’s what we’re trying to fix,” he said. “I know they do at times, but I know it’s real easy to let the past and negative stuff kind of get in there when things are down. That’s human nature.”
Williams told his players to remember the first half and use it for motivation.
“I told them I don’t want them to forget the first half. I want them to remember how it felt and how we didn’t play Eagle football the first half and ended up with that result,” Williams said.
“So, don’t forget it, but we’ve got to move forward.”
Williams said Huntsville got away from the traditional way of playing Eagle football.
“We just didn’t play as hard as we’ve been playing and I think everybody in the stands could see that. We just weren’t playing as hard ... these guys have always, always played hard and they’ve always played as best, as physical as they can and as hard as they can and they just weren’t doing that in the first half,” he said.
The Eagles, even if they weren’t winning games in the past, always played hard, he said.
“That’s something that we’ve always been known for. I’ve been around Huntsville football my whole career, either on the other side or on this side, and I know from both sides that Huntsville has always been known as a physical, tough, hard-nosed, is going to fight and play hard no matter what and that’s what we’ve always done and the first half just wasn’t us. We didn’t play that way,” he said.
The Eagles on Friday will visit Morrilton for a 5A West contest against the Devil Dogs (3-3 1-2).
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Last Thursday’s seventh-grade and junior high games were moved to Monday of this week due to inclement weather.
The junior high Eagles beat Pea Ridge 22-18 on Monday. Pea Ridge won the seventh-grade game 22-6.
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Huntsville pee wee teams will play in the league championship games Saturday at Eagle Stadium.
The fourth-grade team will play at 10 a.m., followed at 11:30 a.m. by the fifth-grade team and at 1 p.m. by the sixth-graders.