HOT SPRINGS — Down 35-21 with 1:07 left in the third quarter, the White Hall Bulldogs fought back for a 48-35 win over the Hot Springs Trojans in 5A-South action on Joe Reese field at Holt Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
“Facing adversity at halftime, I walked into the door and they (White Hall players) were biting at each other a little bit,” White Hall head coach Mike Vaughn said. “I made a comment to them… and you have to decide one way or another you’re either going to be together or you’re going to be apart. You could see it in the second half.”
White Hall (7-1, 4-1 5A-South) and Hot Springs (3-5, 2-3) battled back and forth throughout the first half resulting in a 21-21 tie at the break. After a 27-yard TD run from running back Kenneth Kelley, the White Hall Bulldogs found themselves down 35-21 late in the third quarter. White Hall responded with a 57-yard pass from quarterback Kirk Baugh to wide receiver Kaseem Smith to pull the Bulldogs within seven points. Smith would finish the night with nine catches for 198 yards and three TDs.
“He’s a great football player,” Vaughn said of Smith. “People don’t know about him enough. He is frail and he’s not real big. He can bench press about 250 lbs and he weighs around 165 lbs. He runs and is a 4.4 guy. He catches the football really well and he plays defense for us so he is a good football player.”
After a Hot Springs punt, White Hall had the ball down seven at the Trojans 48-yard line with 10:57 left in the game. Baugh led his team down the field in a hurry and running back Kendrick Edgerson scored from two yards out to even the score as Joseph Failla added the PAT.
The White Hall defense came up big in the second half when Devin Buckner stuffed Anthony Goffigan for no gain as the Bulldogs regained possession at their own 40-yard line after the turnover on downs. With the game tied at 35, Baugh answered with the play of the night as he took a quarterback keeper to the left and sprinted 51 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:24 left in the game. Baugh finished the night 18-of-24 for 266 yards and three TDs while also adding 14 carries for 178 yards and three TDs, accounting for all six of White Hall’s touchdowns.
“Yeah, I’m sure it was,” Vaughn said of Baugh when asked about being one of his best performances. “He’s a football player. I’ve been telling everybody this guy is big time and he really could be.”
The Bulldog defense came up big once again when Lucas Mason forced Hot Springs into an intentional grounding penalty and put the Trojans in fourth and long. The Trojans tried the hook-and-lateral but was stopped short after the catch as the Bulldogs took over on downs.
Baugh ended the night in style on a 50-yard TD run down the left side on third down with 45 seconds left in the game and ended all hope of a Hot Springs comeback.
With the win, White Hall clinches a spot in the playoffs and moves into first place in the 5A-South with a four-way tie between Camden Fairview, Watson Chapel, and Hope as the Cardinals were upset by the Bobcats Friday night 17-12.
“Good players make good coaches,” Vaughn said when asked about clinching a playoff spot. “It’s that simple. When you have the players, anybody can coach them. When you don’t have the players, nobody can coach them. It’s all attribute to our kids. They bought in to what we wanted to do and we have the people who can do it.”
White Hall hosts Hope in a pivotal 5A-South matchup next week.