Morrilton dodges Batesville for 5A title

LITTLE ROCK — A 37-yard field goal attempt hooked just to the left of the goalpost as time expired, and Morrilton clinched its first state championship since 1973 with a 27-24 win against Batesville on Saturday in the 5A final at War Memorial Stadium.

Batesville (11-3) set up its final drive with a Kenton Crawford 20-yard interception return to the Morrilton 44 with 2:44 remaining. Following an illegal block penalty that pushed the ball back to Batesville 46, Crawford completed four passes for 42 yards before Bobby Foster sacked him back to the Morrilton 20 with 3 seconds left and no timeouts remaining for the Pioneers. The next play, Osvaldo Espericueta’s 37-yard field goal attempt sailed just left of the goalpost to give the Devil Dogs (12-2) the championship.

Espericueta converted from 22 yards out earlier in the quarter.

Morrilton’s Toney Hawkins completed 14 of 21 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, including a 67-yard strike to Ray Criswell for the game’s first score. Hawkins also ran the ball 22 times for 56 yards and another score.

Criswell had seven catches for 122 yards. Haynes rushed 17 times for 135 yards for Batesville.

The Pioneers, who last won a state championship in 2003, finished runners-up for the third straight season after losses to Greenwood (2011) and Camden Fairview (2012).