Comets capitalize on picks, send 'Dogs home

LITTLE ROCK — The No. 2 seed Little Rock Mills Comets pitched a shutout in the second half en route to a 32-13 win over the No. 3 seed White Hall Bulldogs in the first round of the 5A state playoffs at Mills Stadium on Friday night.

White Hall (8-3) could not match the intensity of Mills’ defense as the Comets (9-2) forced four turnovers against the Bulldogs. White Hall head coach Mike Vaughn gave Mills defense all the credit for shutting out White Hall in the second half.

“You got to give Mills credit, they outplayed us tonight,” Vaughn said. “I thought our kids played hard. It’s one of those situations that sometimes happens.”

The Comets forced junior quarterback Kirk Baugh into four interceptions on the night while getting pressure on him all night long. Baugh struggled on the night finishing 16-of-30 with 195 yards and one TD along with the four interceptions. Vaughn said Mills defense played very well against the pass all night, which game them some problems.

“We didn’t have a good night, some respects throwing the football like we have in the past,” he said. “You got to give Mills credit. They played a great football game. I just thought they really played well. They really did.”

In bright of things, it was a nice welcome back for senior athlete Irvin Tisdale, who returned to play in his final game as a Bulldog. Tisdale caught a TD pass and was a key contributor on some key plays for White Hall, including a run on a fake punt for a first down and an interception in the first quarter. Tisdale finished the night with four carries for 42 yards and added three catches for 39 yards and a TD. Vaughn said Tisdale was cleared to play Friday and he was ready to go.

“It was good for him,” Vaughn said of Tisdale’s return. “He missed all year long. I thought he did a great job catching the touchdown pass. I thought (Tisdale) did a good job.”

White Hall and Mills battled back and forth throughout the first half resulting in a 13-13 tie at halftime. Mills came out and ran on 11 straight plays to put up the first points on the night when quarterback Omar Avance snuck in from a yard out. White Hall answered back on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from Baugh to Tisdale, but the two-point conversion run was stopped short as Mills led 7-6.

After trading interceptions, Mills found the end zone again when Jacob Cranford found the end zone from 4 yards out to give Mills a 13-6 lead as the PAT sailed wide left. White Hall answered back two possessions later when running back Kendrick Edgerson found pay dirt from a yard out and Joseph Failla added the PAT to tie the game right before halftime.

White Hall received the ball to start the second half, but a 15-play drive resulted in no points and a short punt as Mills’ defense stiffened up. Mills scored on the following possession in just two plays when Braylon Goodwin took a toss sweep to the right and raced down the sideline for a 71-yard TD run to give the Comets a 19-13 lead.

The Bulldogs had a chance to answer with 1:29 left in the ballgame, but Baugh’s pass was picked off by Jaylen Clark and returned for a TD for an unofficial 62-yard return to end all hope of a White Hall comeback. Baugh’s pass was picked off again on the next possession by Braylon Goodwin, who returned it for an unofficial 85-yard TD as Mills ended the Bulldogs’ season.

Vaughn said that despite the loss, it was a good year overall and they will look forward to the offseason as the future looks bright.

“We got a lot of underclassmen,” Vaughn said. “We have a long and hard offseason ahead of us. We have to get bigger and stronger, but I think we’ll be okay.”