The young Charleston Tigers won their second consecutive conference game in as many outings, this time defeating the Cedarville Pirates who many had forecasted to win the 3A-1 conference. Earlier this summer, Hooten’s Arkansas Football publication had picked Cedarville to win the conference with Charleston picked second. Half of the football season remains to be played, but the head-to-head win over the Pirates and the Tigers’ remaining schedule favor Charleston going into week six to be in position to win the conference and earn a top seed in the state playoffs. Last Friday’s win at Alumni Field over Cedarville was huge for Charleston for their playoff prospects this year, and for the next two to three years with their young and talented players.
Charleston (3-2, 2-0) will now have to guard against a let down next Friday when they travel to Mansfield. Although Mansfield is winless on the conference season, the Tigers vs. Tigers game is part of a long-standing rivalry between the two schools, and the Red Tigers will be amped and ready to play Friday in Mansfield. It was just one year ago when Mansfield stunned Charleston with a 100 yard interception return for a touchdown to win the game with less than one minute remaining in the game. The Mansfield win prevented Charleston from finishing with the three seed in the state playoffs and relegated the Tigers to a five seed and traveling to Prescott for a first round state playoff game. The interception and return saved the Mansfield Tigers’ season. It enabled the Tigers to finish with the four seed to qualify for the state playoffs after a loss the previous week at Greenland.
The Mansfield Tigers graduated a talented class in May of 2020 and are now rebuilding under coach Tim Cothren. Mansfield needs a win over Charleston to get back into the conference race, and the Red Tigers will be ready when Charleston comes calling on Friday.
The 3A-1 standings after Friday’s games is:
West Fork 1-1
Games scheduled this Friday in the conference include:
Charleston at Mansfield
Cedarville at Hackett
Greenland vs Lincoln
West Fork vs Lavaca
Charleston now has the head-to-head advantage over both Cedarville and Greenland, effectively giving the Tigers a two-game lead over both schools. Charleston has conference games remaining with Mansfield, Hackett, Lincoln, West Fork, and Lavaca. Cedarville has games remaining with Hackett, West Fork, Greenland, Mansfield, and Lincoln. The Greenland Pirates have games remaining with Lincoln, Lavaca, Cedarville, Hackett, and West Fork. Greenland appears to be the key in the log jam for second place, and by virtue of games played, Charleston has the advantage of schedule and having wins at Greenland and against a tough Cedarville team. It will be up to the young Tigers to maintain their focus each week and take care of business in games that they should be very competitive in for the final five weeks.
Coach May commented after the game, “It was a huge one (win over Cedarville). We made it a little harder than it had to be, but it was a crazy game.”
Last Friday’s game at Charleston was a great game for fans of high school football. Charleston head football coach Ricky May commented that the high school football fans that were in attendance were treated to a great game that was played well by both teams.
Charleston coach Ricky May said after the game, “It was huge (referring to the win over Cedarville). It was a crazy game. We played well at times, but we gave up the big play at times when we didn’t need to. And that’s what killed us (on defense). We would have them in second and long, and next thing you know we would give up a pass in the flat for about twenty (yards). We just didn’t play very smart.”
Coach May has spoken throughout the season about times when the defense was out of position. I asked Coach May if this was a characteristic of a young team and an indicator of this season being a learning process for the defense. Coach May said, “We’ve stopped playing so many kids, too. I really and truly; we have rotated kids at noseman trying to find a noseman, and have struggled to do that. Hopefully after last Friday night we may have found somebody to do that. That’s been the biggest part. Our sophomore the other night, they ran a fullback trap, and he ran right by him. They’re (the young defense) are getting better, but we’re still making just one or two mistakes at the wrong time and it is costing us.” But the good news for Tigers fans is that they are winning despite the learning curve for the young players, and this season has proved to be very successful with respect to immediate success of the program and the foundation Coach May and the players are building for the future.
Friday’s game saw the young Tigers compete hard and in the end, hang in on a two-point conversion attempt by Cedarville to win the game, 36-34. In describing the game, Coach May said, “Cedarville drove down and scored on their first possession. We then went down and scored and made the score 7-6. They then drove down again and scored and made a two point conversion to make the score 14-7. We got the ball just before the half in pretty good field position. And, I guess, we both punted. We only punted one time apiece. Right before half, we drove down inside their red zone and didn’t score. After the half, we came out and we drove down and tied the game. After an interception, we were able to drive down again and score to go up 21-14. They got the ball back and fumbled it away around the 35 yard line. Breckon Ketter scooped it and ran it back for a touchdown. So, by that point, we’re up 28-14 and I am feeling pretty good. There was about ten minutes left in the game. Then they drove down again and scored on us, I want to say with about three minutes left in the game. So, it didn’t take them very long to score. At this point it was 28-20, and they kicked off to us. They stripped us on a kickoff return and ran it back to our twenty (yard line). I think there was less than three minutes remaining. They drove down, scored, and got the two point conversion to tie the game 28-28. We got the ball, drove a little ways, and had a fourth and twenty-three from their 35 yard line. Brandon Scott rolled out and threw it up and Dalton Curtis caught it in the end zone. That made it 34-28. We were going to kick the extra point, and they jumped off sides twice. So, we got the ball at the one yard line and we went for two. We got the two and that made the score 36-28. Cedarville drove down and scored with 20 seconds left in the game. Made the score 36-34, and on the two-point conversion, we got some penetration and the receiver kind of took his eyes off the ball for a second and dropped it. There was a mad scramble for the ball, and they recovered it, but we were able to stop them at the one yard line. We recovered their onside kick, and that’s the way it ended. One heck of a ballgame.”
It was a great call for Coach May to go for the two-point conversion on the Tigers’ final score. “We were going to kick it; that’s what the card tells you to do.” But the two offside penalties gave Charleston a chance to go for two, and the conversion ended up being the difference in the game. If the Pirates had scored on their final two point attempt, Cedarville would have potentially won the game if Charleston had only gone for one point on the previous conversion attempt.
Cedarville attempted onside kicks that gave the Tigers great average field positions to start drives during the game. “Our average starting field position for drives was probably between their 40 yard line and the 50 yard line.” Coach May, in talking about his young team, talks about the excitement he has in coaching them. “From the standpoint that they never quit; it would have been really easy to not finish that two-point play at the end of the game. But man, they did. We got penetration really quick and kind of felt like that was what they were going to try to run. So, we were in good position.”
So now the Charleston coaching staff will have to quickly get the team to refocus on the Mansfield Tigers and prevent an emotional letdown after the emotionally-charged victory over Cedarville. The Pirates are a good football team and will have much to say over the remainder of the season’s schedule. Charleston is in the driver’s seat, but that is only a week-to-week proposition. The Tigers must focus and take care of business when they travel to Mansfield on Friday.
But anyway you look at it, the 2020 edition of the Charleston Tigers is a fun group to watch, and this young team is now in the position to win what could be the first of three consecutive conference championships over this year and the next two seasons. All of that starts this week in Mansfield.