Bearden holds off Rison’s comeback

BEARDEN — The Bearden Bears held off a Rison rally in the closing minutes of the game to edge the Wildcats 26-20 in an 8-2A Conference game Friday night at Rogers Field.

The win puts Bearden (6-2 overall, 5-1 8-2A) in position to claim second place in the conference behind Junction City. Rison (5-3 overall, 4-2) still needs to win its final two games to lock up a third-place finish in the league.

With under 4 minutes left in the game and Bearden leading 26-20, Rison’s Zuntario Oliver intercepted a pass near the goal line and returned it to the Wildcats’ 27. Rison drove to the Bearden 40, but turned the ball over on downs with just 31 seconds remaining.

Bearden, which relied on big plays and some excellent field position the entire game, had to go only 39 yards for its first touchdown early in the opening quarter. A key play in the drive was a 16-yard pass to the Rison 2 on fourth-and-9 at the 18. B.J. Ross ran across for the TD on the next play and Zach Craig added a two-point conversion to give the Bears an 8-0 lead with 7:17 left in the first period.

Rison responded with a 22-play, 92-yard scoring march, all on the ground, that consumed almost 12 minutes. Quarterback Nathan Wilson capped the drive on a 4-yard run to pull Rison within 8-6 with 7:36 left in the opening half. A try for two points failed.

Following a 61-yard kick return by Jamond Young to the Rison 9, it took the Bears just one play to score, with quarterback Javeaz Sledge getting into the end zone on first down. A pass attempt for two points fell incomplete, leaving the score 14-6 with 7:11 to go in the second period.

The Wildcats drove from their own 31 to the Bearden 13 on their next possession, but a 5-yard penalty against Rison on third-and-2 at the 13 took away momentum and the Bears held at the 16 with 2:40 left in the half.

With Bearden backed up to its own 12 on third-and-14, Sledge found Quentin Wilson streaking down the center of the field and connected with the wide receiver on an 88-yard TD bomb. Another try for two points failed, but Bearden had a 20-6 advantage at the break.

Rison’s Terrell Golden covered an onside kick to start the second half, giving the Wildcats possession at the Bearden 48. In 13 plays the ‘Cats covered the distance, finished by Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown plunge. Then Wilson passed to Oliver on a two-point conversion to trim Bearden’s lead to 20-14 with 5:54 remaining in the third period.

But another good kick return by Young and face mask penalty against Rison gave Bearden field position at the Wildcats’ 36. On second-and-18 from the Rison 23, Bearden executed a screen pass from Sledge to Marcus Flint for a touchdown. The ‘Cat defense halted Sledge on a try for two points, leaving Bearden on top, 26-14, with 3:43 left in the third quarter.

Once again, Rison used another long, time-consuming possession for a 59-yard touchdown drive. Oliver covered the final eight yards for the touchdown, but a try for two points failed, leaving Bearden with a 26-20 cushion with 8:23 to go in the game.