Dollarway faced a much-improved Helena-West Helena Central football program, but still managed to escape unscathed as the Cardinals defeated the Cougars 34-19 at Cardinal Stadium Friday night.
“Helena is an improved team and I thought they played well,” Dollarway head coach Cortez Lee said.
The Cougars got within seven points in the fourth quarter after a one-yard touchdown run by senior Cury Brewer with 4:42 left in the game.
Brewer set up the touchdown when he completed a 31-yard pass on a fourth-down play.
Central decided to go for the onside kick and appeared to have recovered it after it slipped out of the fingers of a Dollarway return specialist.
It would have given the Cougars a first down on the opponent’s side of the 50-yard line. However, the referees called for a re-kick and the Cardinals were able to recover the kick on the second attempt.
“He blew the whistle,” Lee said. “When he was down on it, the ball squirted out and it could have gone either way in my opinion.
“The whistle was blown, and I’ve seen that before. Once the whistle is blown, the play is dead.”
On the following play, senior quarterback Joshua Liddell turned what should have been a busted play, into a 50-yard touchdown run after he escaped to the outside.
The score gave the Cardinals the 34-19 lead after the successful two-point conversion.
Liddell was responsible for four of the Cardinals’ touchdowns as he threw for two scores and had two rushing touchdowns.
On Dollarway’s second possession, Liddell gave the Cardinals a 6-5 lead after completing a pass to senior Kabion Ento for 73-yards.
“The scheme of what they were playing kind of dictated that play,” Lee said. “The multiple defensive fronts that they had.
“Sometimes they had eight in the box and blitzing all their guys.”
Facing a third-and-18, Liddell threw a pass off his back foot while being hit and it somehow landed in the hands of Ento after being tipped by a Cougar defender.
Ento held onto the ball and ran it the rest of the way for the score and the lead.
“It really was that type of play,” Lee said. “We knew where we were targeting the ball at, but it was just throw it up and let him make a play.”
After recovering a fumble in the early goings of the second quarter, Liddell completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ento to give Dollarway a 12-5 lead with 10:07 left in the first half.
Liddell later ran for a 65-yard touchdown run down the left side of the field to give the Cardinals a 26-5 lead with 1:12 left remaining before halftime. Dollarway’s Keyshawn Williams also scored in the second quarter on an 8-yard touchdown run with 4:52 left in the first half to give the Cardinals a 20-5 lead.
Central took a 5-0 lead after senior Sagar Patel connected on a 26-yard field goal with 3:30 left in the first quarter. A safety with 6:21 left in the first quarter gave the Cougars an initial 2-0 lead.
“Their scheme was to sell out on the run,” Lee said. “They didn’t have a free safety or a strong safety.
“Most teams that play us, they put nine or 10 guys in the box. That’s something we will have to work out in practice.
“I thought we responded with our big plays and it came together.”
Dollarway senior center Isiah Blair had to leave the game in the first quarter after suffering a broken ankle. Junior Tyler Brown was quickly picked to replace the veteran snapper and despite a couple of bad snaps that resulted in turnovers, Lee said Brown played well.
“He’s new to our team but overall he did OK,” Lee said. “Not going to be totally down on him, cause it is his first time in the heat of battle.
“This was his first time after we lost a key player.”
Lee believes a Central player accidently fell on Blair causing the break. He is expected to miss at least six to eight weeks.
“You can imagine how I was really feeling then,” Lee said. “It was almost like a scramble.
“Outside of that, we responded and made the plays we were supposed to make.”