Special to the Commercial/Bo Rogers
White Hall’s Irvin Tisdale (8) gets by a Pulaski Academy defender during Friday’s game in Little Rock.
LITTLE ROCK — Pulaski Academy didn’t leave anything out of its repertoire.
The top-ranked 5A team dominated possession as usual, successfully recovered three onside kicks and scored off two of them, and Arkansas baseball signee Lawson Vassar completed 29 of 45 passes for 507 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the Bruins to a 77-35 win over White Hall on Friday in a 5A state quarterfinal game.
“I hated to get to 77, actually,” Bruins coach Kevin Kelley said. “We didn’t really expect that.”
PA finished with 733 total yards and held White Hall to 335 in ending the Bulldogs’ winning streak at six games.
“They’ve got a good football team; we’ve got to give them all the credit in the world,” White Hall coach Mike Vaughn said. “They’re really, really good on offense. And on defense, they gave us some problems tonight.”
PA senior L.J. Wallace had 11 catches for 250 yards and four touchdowns. He capped off the night with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“I just felt like I had to do my part and contribute to the team,” Wallace said. “I knew everybody else was going to contribute. Everything was just going to fall in line.”
While high-scoring blowout victories are common for the Bruins (10-2), the Bulldogs (9-2) kept them from setting the tone early. White Hall struck first, three plays into the game, and led 14-10 in what turned out to be a busy first quarter.
Terrance Warren threw for 108 yards and two touchdowns to Percy Arnold and ran for another for the Bulldogs. They nearly connected for a third score on the same fade route as the other two, but Arnold was forced out of bounds a yard shy of the goal line on the final play of the game.
Those were Arnold’s only receptions of the game.
Their senior classmate, Joseph Stewart, collected two of Vassar’s three interceptions, all thrown in the first half. He returned a squib kick 78 yards for a score with 3:06 left before halftime to pull the Bulldogs within 34-21.
White Hall tried all week to gear for the extensive playbook that PA would put into use. Despite four first-half turnovers, PA still managed 551 total yards in the first half and carried a 48-21 lead into halftime.
“They didn’t put in anything new,” Vaughn said. “They executed better than we did. Sometimes, that happens.”
Justin Lantrip picked off Vassar on the game’s first play from scrimmage and returned it to the Bruins 5. Two plays later, Irvin Tisdale ran 8 yards into the end zone to put White Hall in front.
White Hall kept the momentum for a little while, actually stopping PA on downs on its next drive. But PA got on the board when Warren recovered a bad snap in the back of his own end zone.
PA took its first lead a minute later, 10-7, on a 10-yard pass to freshman Tre Bruce and a conversion pass to Hunter Henry, but it was no knockout punch. White Hall needed only four plays on its next series from its own 44 to regain the lead, scoring on a 35-yard pass from Warren to Arnold.
The Bulldogs could not take advantage of a Stewart pick and were forced to punt. The Bruins then took an 18-14 lead on an 8-yard Jairus Porter run and conversion pass from Henry to Daniel Vogel.
From there, the home team took off.
The Bruins recovered two straight onside kicks and scored off the first to build a 26-14 lead. Wallace then caught his first TD pass before Stewart could get the Bulldogs back in the game with his long kickoff return.
Henry, a tight end verbally commited to Arkansas, reeled in his only TD catch one-handed in the back of the end zone on a 4-yard pass midway through the third quarter. He finished with 102 yards on six receptions.
PA then recovered another onside kick and made it 63-21 on a 13-yard grab for Wallace. That would be the last pass of the night for Vassar.
Warren hit Arnold from 27 yards out for a score in the fourth quarter and rushed from 14 yards out to pull White Hall within 70-35. Then came Wallace’s 90-yard kick return.
“I didn’t really want to do that and make them feel bad,” Wallace said. “It just happened.”
PA never punted in the game, converting on four of five fourth downs.
The Bruins will play Batesville, which defeated Greenbrier on the road.