McGEHEE — Fordyce came in with a plan to get wide receivers Gary Cross and Charles York involved in the passing game early against McGehee.
Well, the seniors stepped up and the Redbugs have a No. 2 seed in next week’s first round of the 3A state playoffs to show for it.
Cross had 78 yards receiving and two touchdowns, while York tallied 123 yards and one touchdown as Fordyce dumped McGehee 33-13 on Friday night at Rex Benton Stadium.
The win, coupled with Prescott’s 19-13 loss to Fouke, means Fordyce will host a playoff game for possibly the first two rounds of the playoffs, including next week likely against Mayflower.
McGehee blew a chance at a third straight conference championship — something the Owls haven’t accomplished since the days of Lanny Dauksch — and second straight in the 6-3A Conference. Even with the loss, McGehee receives the No. 3 seed and will host a first-round playoff game next week.
In Friday’s game, Fordyce senior quarterback Javeaz Sledge started the aerial attackon the first play from scrimmage.
On the play, Sledge faked a handoff to senior running back Larry Buckley and found Cross wide-open down field. Cross, who was about 10 yards behind the McGehee defense, scored easily and Fordyce had a lead it would never relinquish just 16 seconds into the game.
“You could say it was one of the things we saw on film,” Fordyce head coach Tim Rodgers said of the deep plays. “We’ve got two of the better receivers in the conference in Gary Cross and Charles York, and Javeaz Sledge made some great throws.
“But, yeah, we did want to take advantage of how hard they were up on the line.”
The next Fordyce (8-2, 5-2 in 6-3A) drive was capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by Sledge, but a 60-yard pass to York helped set up the score.
In the final minute of the first quarter, a 19-yard touchdown pass from Sledge to Cross gave Fordyce a commanding 21-0 lead.
“We struggled at running fast,” McGehee head coach Marcus Haddock said. “We just let them get too far behind us.
“I mean it’s pretty simple, it’s just like backyard football.”
In Haddock’s opinion, those big pass plays did more than put the Owls (6-4, 5-2) in a big hole. It affected how McGehee did offensively.
“We allowed those two big pass plays to get in our head,” Haddock said. “Anytime you start thinking about something else against a team like Fordyce, it’s not going to be good.”
McGehee’s offense failed to put points on the board in the first half, but its defense finally stepped up when Fordyce got greedy at the end of the opening 24 minutes.
Sledge was hit as he made a throw out to the flat and McGehee junior Ryan Berry intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown as time expired. Even with the big play, McGehee faced a 33-7 halftime deficit.
With the big lead, Fordyce seemed content to just run the ball with Buckley in the second half in hopes of limiting the time McGehee had to come back.
“When we need to run the ball and keep the ball on the ground he’s our man,” Rodgers said of Buckley. “Since the second half of the Smackover game we’ve really started going back to running the ball more. …
“He’s really stepped up the last three or four weeks.”
The Owls opened up the passing game and the Redbugs feasted on errant passes to the tune of five interceptions — three in the second half. Cross intercepted three of the passes, including one that would have been a touchdown but was negated by a penalty, and Buckley picked off two.
“Our defense, this year, is the difference,” Rodgers said. “In the past we haven’t been able to stop anybody, but tonight we had a lot of stops in the second half when they got the ball down deep.
“I hate to say it but when you make McGehee throw the ball you can take advantage, and we made some nice interceptions.
“I thought our defense played a great game.”