OF­FEN­SIVE LINE­MEN hun­ker down in trenches.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Sports - PETE PERKINS

Old-school foot­ball coaches love games like the Class 2A state foot­ball ti­tle game Fri­day night.

Junc­tion City’s 36-22 vic­tory over Hazen at War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Lit­tle Rock con­sumed 2 hours, 16 min­utes and in­cluded 18 passes. It was dom­i­nated by play­ers along the line of scrim­mage, which coaches for both teams knew was in­evitable.

On the game’s open­ing possession, Hazen took 15 plays to go 51 yards in 7:20 on a drive com­pleted by se­nior run­ning back Tar­rall Penn’s 1-yard run through a gap opened by se­nior guards Ross Harper and Ross Sei­den­schwarz, and se­nior cen­ter Jack­son Shel­man. Only ar­ti­fi­cial turf and cold mist pre­vented the stereo­typ­i­cal cloud of dust.

“These games are al­ways won or lost in the trenches,” Hazen Coach Joe Be­san­con said.

“We thought the line­men in this game matched up pretty evenly,” Junc­tion City Coach Steven Jones said. “Re­ally, all the way up and down the board, we thought we were kind of mirror im­ages of one an­other.”

Junc­tion City (12-2) broke the ground-game mold on its fi­nal possession of the first half with a drive that fea­tured three passes, in­clud­ing one for 38 yards to the Hazen 1 from junior quar­ter­back Brady Hutch­e­son to se­nior D.J. Hill. Se­nior Dhante Gibson scored on the next play 10 sec­onds be­fore half­time to pull Junc­tion City within 16-12.

Hutch­e­son gave all the credit to his line­men.

“Our line gave me a lot of time,” he said. “They ab­so­lutely did their job. They kept me safe.”

Hutch­e­son fin­ished with 156 pass­ing yards, 116 of which came in the sec­ond half.

“They were play­ing nine guys in the box, and we knew that would mean man cov­er­age,” Jones said. “We have some ex­plo­sive guys out there who can make big plays.”

Be­san­con’s praise of his line­men started with se­nior tackle and line­backer Kade Perry.

“Ev­ery­thing starts for us with Kade Perry,” Be­san­con said. “He’s a war­rior.”

Junc­tion City se­nior tackle and de­fen­sive end Se­maj Lev­ingston echoed Be­san­con’s praise.

“He’s great,” Lev­ingston said. “He’s a phe­nom­e­nal player, and I want to con­grat­u­late him for the way he played tonight.”

Hazen (13-1) also broke from the run­ning norm on its first possession of the sec­ond half when, on third and 8 from its 42, junior quar­ter­back Blayne Toll threw his team’s first pass of the game. It was good for 58 yards and a touch­down to fresh­man re­ceiver Quincey McA­doo to give Hazen a 22-12 lead.

McA­doo’s catch re­sulted in Hazen’s fi­nal points.

Junc­tion City be­gan the game with 51 play­ers, 21 more than Hazen, and its depth ad­van­tage be­came ap­par­ent as it pulled away with 24 unan­swered points.

“It was a bat­tle in the trenches, man,” Be­san­con said. “They fi­nally just started wear­ing us down.”

“We have a big depth chart, and we can get fresh guys on the field,” Lev­ingston said. “That’s a big help. I could tell some of their key guys were tired, and we had guys on the side­line that came in and stepped up.”

Junc­tion City of­fen­sive line­man Se­maj Lev­ingston (left) blocks Hazen line­backer Kade Perry. The Dragons rushed for 255 yards. Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/THOMAS MET­THE

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