FORDYCE — The Fordyce Redbugs turned away a late Rison rally to edge the Wildcats, 28-21, in the season opener Friday night at Redbug Field.
The nonconference tussle between the two rivals was a contrast in offenses, as Fordyce ran the ball just six times for negative three yards, but went through the air for 225 yards. The Redbugs ran 32 offensive plays the entire game, while Rison got off 77 snaps, with the Wildcats getting 21 first downs to 15 for Fordyce. The Wildcats used just four passes for 23 yards, but rushed 71 times for 310 yards.
In the end, though, it was a couple of missed opportunities by Rison inside the Fordyce 20 in the second half, and a fumble return for a touchdown by the Redbugs just before the half that hurt the Wildcats’ chances for victory.
It was the third straight win for the Redbugs over the Wildcats in the 62-game series, but it was much more competitive than last year’s 30-point victory by Fordyce at Rison.
“There’s a world of difference in them (Rison) from last year,” Fordyce head coach Tim Rodgers said. “I didn’t feel comfortable until we stopped them there at the end.
“They kept on driving and had made a lot of first downs.”
Commenting about his team’s inability to run the ball, Rodgers remarked, “They had six guys in the box and we knew we would have to throw the ball.”
Fordyce quarterback Braden Chambers used a mix of short and long passes, connecting on 17 out of 23 aerials, with three touchdowns, no interceptions and 209 yards. Larry Buckley, who hauled in six catches for 86 yards, was the Redbugs’ leading receiver. Most of Buckley’s receptions were on short tosses that got the speedster in space to use his elusiveness.
However, it took a defensive stand by the Redbugs in the closing seconds of the game to preserve the win. Rison drove from its own 45 to the Fordyce 22 for a first down with 1:25 left in the game. But the 13-yard line was as close as the Wildcats could get, turning the ball over on downs with 19 seconds remaining.
“Give them (Fordyce) credit, they made the big plays,” said Rison head coach Clay Totty, who had feared the Redbugs’ talented receiving corps. “We gave good effort, but they were able to make the plays and we didn’t. Their fumble return for a touchdown and us not being able to get it in the end zone a couple of times when we had it deep in their territory really hurt us.”
Jokenzie Broughton led Rison’s rushing attack with 131 yards on 25 carries, while Zuntario Oliver ran 29 times for 100 yards. Quarterback Nathan Wilson added 73 yards on 15 carries.
Rison scored with 6:24 left in the opening period to cap a 53-yard drive. Facing fourth-and-13 at the Fordyce 7-yard line, sophomore reserve quarterback Seth Crouse passed over the middle to wide receiver Garrett Dedman for a 17-yard TD strike. Oliver booted the first of his three PATs to make it 7-0.
Fordyce answered in less than two minutes, when Chambers and Buckley teamed up for a 33-yard pass-and-run for a touchdown. Jakeymes Gates tacked on the first of his two successful extra point kicks to knot the score, 7-7, with 4:39 left in the first period.
The Wildcats used 19 plays to drive 82 yards for their next touchdown, finished off by Oliver’s three-yard plunge that pushed Rison ahead, 14-7, with 7:20 remaining in the half.
With 32 seconds to go in the half, Buckley scooped up a Rison fumble and cruised 38 yards for a touchdown that knotted the score, 14-14.
After stopping Rison at the Fordyce 12 on the Wildcats’ first possession of the second half, the Redbugs marched 88 yards for a touchdown, capped by a 16-yard scoring pass from Chambers to Gary Cross on third-and-10. The PAT try failed, leaving the score, 20-14, at the 3:03 mark of the third quarter.
Sparked by a 30-yard bootleg run by Wilson, the Wildcats moved quickly for a go-ahead touchdown. Oliver ended the drive on a four-yard TD run that gave Rison a 21-20 advantage with 1:23 to go in the third period.
However, a pass interference call against Rison and a couple of long pass completions by Fordyce put the Redbugs ahead for good. A 27-yard touchdown pass from Chambers to Charles York pushed Fordyce into the lead, and a two-point conversion pass from Chambers to Buckley made it 28-21 with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
For the remainder of the game, Rison ran 26 offensive plays to just six for the Redbugs. However, the Wildcats failed to capitalize on the ball possession and Fordyce held on to win.