By Adam Lee
OF THE COMMERCIAL STAFF
WARREN — After suffering a leg injury last week against Dardanelle, Drake Jones returned to natural form and threw three touchdown passes and ran for another as No. 1 Warren knocked off No. 2 Arkadelphia 31-24 in the quarterfinals of the 4A state playoffs.
“It’s all heart. It was a great high school football game. He’s a warrior,” Warren coach Bo Hembree said of Jones’ performance.
Warren will host Valley View next Friday in the 4A state semifinals.
Hembree stated he wanted his team to be able to stop Arkadelphia senior quarterback Jakahri Howell and senior running back Kris Oliver. After stopping Arkadelphia on fourth down on its first offensive drive, Warren’s defense forced a punt on Arkadelphia’s second possession.
Jones then tossed a 72-yard pass to junior wide receiver Darveon Brown, who outran defenders in the middle of the secondary.
In the opening minute of the second quarter, Jones threw an interception and Arkadelphia took advantage. Howell managed to gain first downs with the hurry-up offense and responded with a 2-yard touchdown run. An extra point would cut into Warren’s lead, 10-7, with 2:35 left in the first half. That was as close as the Badgers would get the whole night.
With the help of Warren wide receiver Jaylon Marshall grabbing first-down passes, Jones threw his second touchdown pass of the night to senior wide receiver Von Eric Gonder from 12 yards out. The Badgers blocked the extra point.
Arkadelphia moved the chains with the use of screens and outside runs. The Badgers moved all the way to the Warren 23 and with 9 seconds left, Howell heaved a pass in the end zone that was intercepted by Warren defensive back Chris Oliver.
Jones opened up the game with a nine-play drive highlighted by an 11-yard touchdown. Warren linebacker Kendrick Newton led a defense that kept Kris Oliver in check and dared Howell to throw instead of run. Howell answered this challenge and threw a 23-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter.
“We wanted to take No. 2 (Kris Oliver) out the game and make them beat us with somebody else,” said Hembree.
Jones answered with throwing another touchdown pass to Brown in the back of the endzone from 11 yards to put them on top, 31-24.
With less than 7 minutes left in the game, Howell attempted to put his team in a position to come back, but Kendrick Newton dropped Howell in the backfield for a loss of 6 yards on third-and-goal. Following that, the Lumberjacks were called for a late hit penalty as Howell ran out of bounds. Repeating fourth down, the Badgers settled for a field goal to cut into Warren’s lead 31-24.
With 5:25, Warren did all it could to run the clock off. Jones connected with Brown a few times to move the ball all the way to the Badgers’ 28. On fourth-and-1, the Lumberjacks were bailed out with a pass interference call against the Badgers.
With a fresh set of downs, the Lumberjacks got all the way to the Badgers 3 and ran the clock out to secure the victory.