CAMDEN – El Dorado’s defense made goal line stands at the end of the first half and at the end of the game to preserve a 40-36 season-opening win at Camden Fairview on Thursday.
For Coach Steven Jones, it was his first opening day victory since arriving in El Dorado.
“We needed momentum going into conference play. You have to start off competing at a high level in non-conference to do that,” Jones said. “Our kids stood tall throughout the course of the game and didn’t back down. They kept fighting. It was huge for us to get out of there with a road win.”
El Dorado led 40-21 with 4:37 remaining in the third quarter before the Cardinals (1-1) pecked away, using penalty flags against the Wildcats as fuel. El Dorado was flagged for 23 penalties in the game, including 11 on the defense just in the second half. The Wildcats had four pass interference penalties and three roughing the passer included in their total.
El Dorado’s offense was able to overcome the miscues. Sharmon Rester completed 10-of-16 passes for 247 yards and four touchdowns. RJ Thomas hauled in two touchdown passes. Jackie Washington had two receptions for 81 yards and a TD. The senior also rushed for a 64-yard touchdown. DeAndra Burns, Jr., had two catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. Kamron Bibby had three receptions for 68 yards. Shadarious Plummer had 11 carries for 79 yards.
All that offense proved necessary against a Cardinal team that was almost unstoppable in the second half.
Trailing 40-21, Fairview marched 59 yards in a drive, helped by a roughing the passer flag. JaToney McGhee capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down. The PAT cut the deficit to 40-28 with 1:24 left in the third.
El Dorado’s offense failed to move the chains and Fairview took over at midfield after a short punt. The teams combined for seven penalties on the ensuing possession. The Cardinals converted one first down with a roughing the passer penalty. The Wildcats would later put them in a third-and-25 hole before digging them out with unsportsmanlike conduct and pass interference calls on the next two plays. Fairview would score when Martavious Thomas hit McGhee for a 29-yard touchdown pass. El Dorado jumped offsides on the PAT, prompting Fairview to go for two. Jacoriae Brown’s 2-point run trimmed the deficit to 40-36 with 8:45 left in the fourth.
El Dorado picked up its only first down of the fourth quarter when Rester found Bibby for 21 yards on third-and-6. But an illegal block on a reverse would stop the drive, forcing the Wildcats to punt the ball back to the Cardinals, who took over at the 27.
Fairview converted a fourth-and-2 on McGhee’s 4-yard run. A pass interference call gave the Cardinals first down at midfield. McGhee rambled for 21 yards to the 29. Thomas would hit Jayden Bates for 16 yards for a first down at the 6.
Brown pushed the pile to the 3-yard line but on second down, El Dorado linebacker, Jyrin Steward dropped Brown for a 4-yard loss. McGhee lost a yard to bring up a fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line. Thomas rolled to his right and tossed a pass to McGhee, who couldn’t find the handle at the 3-yard line with an El Dorado defender closing fast.
The Wildcats took over possession with 3.1 seconds left before taking a knee to end the contest.
“We got those stops when we had to have them the most. Our back was against the wall all night defensively,” said Jones. “I thought we played well. The scoreboard doesn’t show that but they had more yards in penalties than they did in total offense. They had the ball on the plus-side of the 50, just about every drive with penalties. Our defense competed hard. They had tough field position and they kept fighting. They made those stops when they had to the most.”
El Dorado jumped to a 14-0 lead. Bibby caught a 28-yard pass from Rester, who would scramble to his right and, while being dragged down, toss a 10-yard touchdown pass to the end zone to Thomas. Patrick Sixbey booted the PAT with 6:47 left in the first.
The Wildcats would score again on a 75-yard drive, capped by Rester’s 7-yard touchdown run up the middle. Sixbey’s kick pushed the margin to 14-0 with 14:14 left in the second quarter.
Fairview got on the board on Brown’s 9-yard touchdown run with 13:15 left in the half and tied the game 14-14 on McGhee’s 20-yard run with 5:39 left in the second quarter.
The Wildcats responded with a 65-yard scoring drive. Plummer had three carries for 28 yards to start the march. Rester hit Burns for 17 before finding Thomas in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown. The PAT missed, leaving the score at 20-14 with 3:01 left in the half.
The Cardinals drove to El Dorado’s 2-yard line but were stuffed at the 1 to end the half.
El Dorado’s offense flashed its big-play magic in the third quarter. Rester found Washington for a 64-yard touchdown pass for a 26-14 lead. On the Wildcats’ next possession, Washington would score on a 68-yard run to up the advantage to 32-14 with 7:41 left in the third.
The Cardinals took advantage of three defensive penalties and cut the lead to 32-21 on McGhee’s 14-yard touchdown run with 4:53 left in the third.
El Dorado answered quickly as Burns turned a short pass from Rester into a 53-yard touchdown reception. Washington ran for the 2-point conversion to give the Wildcats a 40-21 cushion with 4:37 left in the third.
“What a great atmosphere. Our fans were just excited to see Wildcat football this year. They were awesome all night, especially our students,” Jones said. “Our 12th man, they brought some energy. They were there tailgating, probably at about four o’clock. That student section really had our kids pumped up and ready to go. It was just a great atmosphere. I’m looking forward to having that grow each game as the season goes on and our football team continues to get better and better.”
The Wildcats travel to Cabot next week.