Harding Academy the real deal against outmanned Knights

Harding Academy advanced to the 3A semifinals Friday night at First Security Stadium in Searcy by defeating Centerpoint, 35-7.


SEARCY, Ar. — Centerpoint coach Cary Rogers figured his Knights had played bigger and faster football teams. He changed his mind two hours later after watching two-time defending 3A state champion Harding Academy end the Knights’ season, 35-7.

“Without a doubt that’s the best group (Harding) we’ve seen this season,” said Rogers. “They’re well coached, have good athletes, play hard, and have more overall team speed than anyone we’ve played. Prescott has two or three who are faster, but as far as overall team speed, I think Harding is faster.”

Prescott lost its fastest player in Friday’s 46-7 win over Newport when Jaylen Hopson suffered a broken leg on the first play of the game. In other 3A playoff action McGehee beat Hoxie, 38-21; and Booneville whipped Glen Rose, 49-21.

Centerpoint’s Isaac Rodriguez recovered a fumble for the Knights.

Harding defense came close to shutout

Harding’s starting 11 on defense put on a show in the first half, and held Centerpoint’s explosive offense scoreless for more than three quarters. The Knights (9-4) avoided a shutout after Harding cleared its bench.

The Wildcats (11-2) scored on five of six possessions in the first half to build a 35-0 cushion. That performance also meant the scoreboard clock ran non-stop in the final two quarters.

Senior tailback Andrew Miller and junior quarterback Kade Smith accounted for almost all of the Wildcats’ yardage. Miller led all runners with 107 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Smith rushed for 36 yards and two TDs, while completing 8 of 14 passes for 57 yards and a TD.

The Wildcats outgained Centerpoint 193 to 114 in the first half. Harding only had two possessions in the second half with the clock running. The Knights’ defense stopped Harding’s only second half threat on a fumble recovery by Isaac Rodriguez. The Wildcats managed only 32 yards in the final two quarters.


Knights had a memorable year says coach

“We had a good year,” said Rogers. “We started game-busters, lost a few, but then got back on track. Overall, it was a great year. These playoff games are great for our program. Our junior high was 6-3, and with the players we have returning, we should be very competitive again.”

It was still 35-0 in the middle of the fourth quarter when both head coaches started substituting. Senior Dillon Fox replaced all-state candidate Josh Lawson, and marched the Knights 93 yards for a touchdown. Nathan Rogers caught a 30-yard pass from Fox on the drive. Fox got the six-pointer on a 7-yard run, and Hayden Rogers kicked the PAT with 5:19 left in the game.

Lawson completed 13 of 23 passes for 150 yards in his final schoolboy game. Junior Jace Clark led the Knights’ ground game with 77 yards on 11 carries. Centerpoint finished with 255 total yards.