Rison avoids upset

RISON — For the second week in a row, it took a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns by Rison, as the Wildcats avoided a huge upset by rallying past the valiant Hampton Bulldogs, 41-33, in an 8-2A Conference battle Thursdaynight at Wildcat Field.

Rison, which will move on to the state playoffs next week, improved to 7-3 overall and finished the league race at 5-2. Hampton’s season ended at 2-7 and 1-6.

“We weren’t ready to play,” Rison head coach Clay Totty said. “They [Hampton] played harder than we did, and they outplayed us. I quit counting the number of third down plays they made. But that’s to their credit. We didn’t panic, though, and found a way to win.” Totty pointed out that it was the fourth straight game for the Wildcats that came down to the last possession.

Trailing 25-20 starting the second half, Hampton quarterback Chase Riley directed the Bulldogs on two consecutive scoring drives that put Rison in a 33-25 hole with 2:29 left in the third period.

Sandwiched between Hampton’s two TD’s, Rison’s Zuntario Oliver had a 50-yard scoring run nullified by a holding penalty.

But after the Bulldogs grabbed the 8-point lead, Rison answered with a 59-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Nathan Wilson’s 7-yard scoring run climaxed the march that pulled the Wildcats within 2 points with 10:20 left in the game. On a 2-point conversion try, Wilson got the snap from center just before the play clock expired and ran into the end zone to knot the score, 33-33.

The Bulldogs moved to the Rison 38 to face a fourth down. Riley failed to get the handle on the deep snap and the Wildcats’ Eric Leopard fell on the loose ball at the 43 with 6:42 remaining.

Using a dozen plays, all on the ground, the Wildcats drove 57 yards to take the lead, capped by Cortez Phillips’ 3-yard TD plunge with just 1:08 to go in the game. Oliver followed with a 2-point conversion to give the ‘Cats a 41-33 advantage.

A pass interference call against Rison on fourth and 10 kept the Bulldogs’ hopes alive, and a pass from Riley to Trevaughn Moore got Hampton to the Wildcats’ 34. On the next play, Riley fumbled and Kolton Hooks recovered for Rison with 7 seconds left.

Two major penalties against Rison at the start of the game helped Hampton’s first scoring surge. Jordan Brown’s 12-yard TD run and Niko Perez’s PAT kick gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 6:09 remaining in the opening period.

But Rison responded with three straight touchdowns, a 23-yard run by Wilson; a 21-yard scamper by Phillips; and a short TD plunge by Wilson that gave the Wildcats an 18-7 lead with 9:21 left in the first half. Two of the touchdowns were set up by Jaylon Mitchum’s pair of interceptions.

Later, though, with Hampton facing third and 9 at the Bulldogs’ 46, Riley and Moore teamed up on a touchdown pass-and-run that trimmed Rison’s lead to 18-13 at the 5:37 mark of the second period.

As the Bulldogs continued to crowd the line of scrimmage to slow down Rison’s rushing attack, Wilson found Bryson Marks all alone for a 38-yard TD pass that pushed the Wildcats’ lead back to double digits. Juran Smith tacked on the extra point kick to make it 25-13 with 2:44 to go in the half.

However, the Bulldogs gained momentum heading into halftime, as Riley completed a 70-yard touchdown pass to Brown. When Perez kicked the extra point, the ‘Dogs were within 25-20 at the 2:15 mark of the second period.