LITTLE ROCK — If you were to ask Warren head coach Bo Hembree about playing in rain during a football game, his response is simple. “If it rains, it rains. We just have to be ready to go play,” said Hembree.
Hembree anticipated the field conditions to be great, but a severe thunderstorm and lightning around War Memorial Stadium forced officials to suspend the game at the 3:30 mark in the second quarter. At that point, Booneville led Warren 14-0.
The time of suspension was 1 hour and 23 minutes. The teams returned to the field with Warren’s defense stopping Booneville’s offense on fourth down. With the offense taking over at their own 7-yard line, the Lumberjacks marched down the field with 37 seconds left in the first half.
After a 32-yard catch from senior wide receiver Kaleel Thomas and another first down catch by junior wide receiver Darveon Brown, Warren found itself just outside of the red zone.
The fast-paced drive seemed to work after a long hiatus, but senior quarterback Drake Jones threw an interception in the right corner of the end zone with 9 seconds left in the half. Brown was wide open in the left corner of the end zone and could have caught the potential touchdown.
After halftime, Booneville seemed geared up to score again, but with 5:15 left in the third quarter another suspension was called due to the reoccurring weather conditions. The second delay lasted 46 minutes.
The unexpected interruptions from the weather seemed to affect Warren’s ability to get into a groove offensively. Warren first offensive drive in the third quarter ended with it going three-and-out and Jones getting sacked.
In the end, it took 4 hours and 40 minutes for Booneville to claim the 4A state championship with a 14-12 victory over Warren.
Warren was able to score on a 95-yard drive with a 1:03 left to play against Valley View last week. But with 1:07 to go and 90 yards to make a case for the title, the Lumberjacks were unsuccessful.
Booneville head coach Scott Hyatt admitted that he knew Warren could score in those situations and expected his defense to make a big play.
“It doesn’t take them long to score. All I could think was that ‘we need a pick’,” stated Hyatt. His team read his thoughts with Drake Jones throwing an interception as time expired.
The weather delays never seemed to affect Booneville. Usually a team relies on the running game in wet conditions but that was the Bearcats’ offensive scheme anyway. As for the Lumberjacks, once the weather got settled, they settled down and gathered the momentum for much of the second half.
Warren’s defense held Booneville scoreless in the second half. The Bearcats managed to move the chains, but whenever they were in the red zone they could not punch in a score.
“They wanted it just like we wanted it. They stopped us and we stopped them,” said Booneville senior quarterback Cody Harrel, the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Offensively, Warren found its offensive rhythm before the end of the half and never missed a beat in the second half.
“The first half it kept raining but it when it stopped we were able to use the whole field,” said Hembree.
However, not scoring extra points may have cost the team the game. On the Lumberjacks’ first touchdown, they missed a field goal. On the second touchdown, a two-point conversion attempt failed as Drake Jones was stopped short of the goal line.
Hembree credits his team play to their will to win and never considered the rain to be a factor.
“We just stayed in the moment and tried to find out what we could do differently. Our defense played their guts out. We were able to find some offense, but we found it a little bit too late,” said Hembree.