HARMONY GROVE – Senior speedster Xaylon Falls scored early and often and Harmony Grove cruised to a 46-7 win over Smackover in the regular season 5-3A finale at Bill Manning Field.
Falls scored four touchdowns and led a balanced Hornet offense that finished with 307 total yards.
The Hornets (8-2, 6-1) rebounded from last week’s loss to Prescott to claim the No. 2 seed in the conference.
With a win, the Bucks (5-5, 4-3) could have forced a three-way tie for second, but have to settle for the No. 4 seed in the conference.
Smackover will be on the road next Friday to take on the No. 2 seed from 2-3A, and will have to wait until the outcome between Clinton and Mountain View Friday night to determine their opponent.
“At times, we played well,” Smackover coach Brian Brown said. “You know they are a good team, just like Prescott. When we make mistakes like we made tonight, you can’t overcome that.”
The Bucks had three costly turnovers. After Smackover’s defense shut down the Hornets’ opening drive, three-and-out, Dexter Crockett fumbled on the second play of the possession, as Jeremie Edwards picked up the loose ball for the Hornets and advanced it to the Bucks’ 20.
Falls quickly scored his first touchdown on an 8-yard jaunt, and then took a swing pass from quarterback Zach Smith for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0 with 9:43 left in the first.
Brown said, “We are thin right now. We tried (Crockett) out to see if he could go, and he toughed it out, but was unable to finish.”
Crockett finished with only four yards on four carries. Senior Jaqueze Modica carried the load at running back for the Bucks, rushing for 65 yards on 21 carries. At the start of the second quarter, Smackover was unable to convert on a fake punt, and the Hornets took over at the Smackover 32.
Falls scored his second touchdown on an 11-yard run, as he outran Bucks’ defenders to the pylon and staked the Hornets to a 14-0 lead with 10:52 left in the half.
Harmony Grove’s defense dominated throughout the contest with senior nose guard Daniel Hicks leading the way.
Hicks’ specialty is tackles for loss, and he was in the Bucks’ backfield all night.
On their next possession, Smackover marched 56 yards to the Hornets’ 12, but came away with no points after Hicks and Jermaine Edwards stuffed Modica for a three-yard loss on fourth down.
The Hornets consumed most of the second quarter on a 16-play, 85-yard drive, converting for seven first downs. Jeremie Edwards scored with 17 seconds remaining from one yard out on a Single-Wing formation play and Mecca Arnold’s conversion run cushioned the Hornets lead at 22-0 at intermission.
After receiving the second-half kickoff, Smackover used some trickery on fourth down, as junior Landon Wallingsford took the fake punt snap from his blocking back position.
A face mask penalty tacked on 15 yards and the Bucks had a first down at the HG 36. Junior quarterback Austin Goodwin was effective on this drive.
After he carried for 16 yards to the five, Goodwin finished off the drive with a keeper for the Bucks’ score.
Harley Williams’ PAT at 8:48 pulled the Bucks to 22-7. Goodwin completed 9-of-16 passes for 87 yards. Junior Dylan Novack had four catches for 39 yards.
The momentum was short-lived as Falls rocketed for an 89-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, and after another Arnold conversion run, the Hornets took a commanding 30-7 lead.
Smackover went on a 56-yard drive to the HG 13 that ended as Goodwin was intercepted by Zach Smith, playing safety on defense.
After holding the Hornets and forcing a punt, Smackover took over on their own 18. Modica fumbled on the first play, and Zaxary Ransdell recovered for the Hornets. Falls scored his fourth touchdown on a 32-yard pass from Smith on a 4th-and-18 play with 8:35 left in the game.
Falls finished his night, taking the two-point conversion pass from Smith to extend the Hornets lead to 38-7.
Harmony Grove employed the Single-Wing formation the remainder of the game and Tobias Hicks had a 7-yard scoring run and successful two-point run with 2:28 to play.
Brown said, “I thought the kids played hard. I was proud of the kids and the way they practiced this week. We played some tough teams, Prescott, Harmony Grove, Shiloh Christian, and Junction City.
“So we have been tested. Our kids know what the next test is. We have some good leaders on our team. I think they will be focused and ready to play next week.”