The Southside Mavericks did what they had to do last week.
The Mavericks overcame two long kickoff returns, including one that went for a touchdown, in beating Little Rock Catholic, 28-20, to clinch a playoff berth.
Southside quarterback Taye Gatewood sloshed through the rain by completing 7-of-16 passes for 122 yards and two scores.
"I was real proud of the way the guys played," Southside coach Jeff Williams said. "Going on the road and overcoming some adversity, I thought defensively we played extremely well. We held Samy (Johnson, Catholic's standout tailback) pretty good. Offensively, we made some plays. It was a hard-nosed 7A-Central battle."
Senior Darin Davenport, who caught a key touchdown in the fourth quarter, had 19 tackles in all. Leading tackler Bennett Weindel (113 total stops) had five tackles, which was due in part to the play of Southside's interior line.
Sophomore Landen Chaffey had eight stops in the win.
The Mavericks held the Rockets to 145 yards rushing (3.3 yards per carry). Catholic finished with 163 total yards of offense.
Senior Ricardo Savoy started the scoring with a 17-yard run. He leads the Mavericks with 864 yards (7.4 per carry) and seven touchdowns.
Gatewood (540 yards) added a 55-yard touchdown run, the longest run of his career.
The Mavericks are home Friday for struggling Little Rock Central. The Tigers (1-6, 0-5) have managed just five 7A-Central touchdowns this season, three of which came in a 41-21 loss to Cabot.
"We're in (post-season), but obviously we want to get a good seed," Williams said. "Little Rock Central is part of that process. It'll be a big night. It's Senior Night and that always means a lot to our seniors."
A couple of weeks ago, the Northside Grizzlies still harbored hopes of winning the 7A-Central title.
These days, the Grizzlies are just hoping to get the chance to host a first-round 7A playoff game.
Northside tumbled out of conference title contention with losses the past two weeks, the latest a 40-3 setback to the state's top-ranked squad, North Little Rock.
Now, it's up to the Grizzlies (5-3, 2-3) to bounce back as postseason play approaches, starting with a road game this Friday at Cabot.
"We all need to play good, we haven't done that in two weeks," Northside coach Mike Falleur said. "We need to get back going in the right direction and get a good taste in our mouth going into the last week of the (regular) season next week and we've got a tough game Friday."
Though the Panthers (3-5, 1-4) haven't had the start they've wanted to begin conference play, Falleur noted most of their losses could have easily been wins.
"They've lost three games that they lost on the last play," Falleur said. "They lost right near the end of the Southside game, they lost right near the end of the Catholic game and they had Conway beat and let them tie it back up and head into overtime. ... They easily could be 6-2, so they've had some bad luck."
Plus, Friday promises to be an emotional night in Cabot as it may possibly be the final home game for long-time Panther coach Mike Malham, who is retiring at the end of the season. Malham recently won his 300th career game.
"I hope our guys understand (the magnitude of this week's game), with the emotions of his last home game, and them trying to squeak out a couple of wins here at the end to get into the playoffs, so we've got to be ready to play," Falleur said.
Third And Long ...
Williams said he's excited about coaching against former lineman Tank Moreton. The former Mavericks lineman played college ball at Arkansas State before landing a job as the offensive line coach at Central. "It really makes you proud, and shows you're getting older, too," Williams said. "He was a great player at Southside and you can see his (Moreton) fingerprints all over the offensive line." ... Gatewood has now thrown for 4,145 career yards and 42 touchdowns. ... Southside's Tyrese Solomon has caught five passes for 80 yards and a TD last week. He's caught a touchdown in four of the Mavericks' five conference games. He now has 97 career receptions for 1,623 yards and 16 career touchdowns. ... Northside's leading tackler in last week's loss to NLR was senior cornerback Elijah Tabut, who made 10 stops, eight of those unassisted. Tabut also broke up a pass and made an interception on the Charging Wildcats' opening possession, only to have the Grizzlies fumble the ball back to NLR, which then proceeded to score touchdowns on each of its next six drives. ... Northside senior linebacker Anthony Travis continues to lead the team in tackles this season with 72. Senior safety Greg Washington is second with 50 stops. ... Cabot coach Mike Malham may conclude his 36-year coaching career with exactly 300 victories — unless the Panthers can win one of their final two games against Northside and North Little Rock. In fact, Cabot is on the verge of missing post-season play for the first time since 2011. The Panthers have missed the playoffs just five times since 1987. ... Conway did not attempt a single pass in last week's 31-0 win over Central. ... Southside's four losses this season have come against the top four-ranked teams in the state — No. 1 North Little Rock, No. 2 Bryant, No. 3 Conway and No. 4 (overall) Greenwood.
Times Record sportswriter Buck Ringgold also contributed to this report.