Bearcats fall to Harding Academy

Leland Barclay Special to
the Times Record

SEARCY — The Booneville Bearcats reeled off a quick, long touchdown run on Friday night.

Then Harding Academy got the ball.

Harding Academy countered Booneville’s quick score and raised them seven scores on the way to a 52-21 win in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A playoffs at Harding University’s First Security Stadium.

Harding Academy (10-1), the defending state champion, will host Glen Rose in the semifinals.

Here are five takeaways from Harding Academy’s win on Friday:

1. Ray of hope

Junior quarterback Randon Ray scored on the third play of the game, running around the left side 73 yards for a touchdown to give Booneville (10-3) a quick, 7-0 lead just 62 seconds into the game.

“We knew it was going to take a while to settle into the speed of the game,” Harding Academy coach Neil Evans said. “One of the difficult things about that offense is being able to simulate it in practice.

“Really, the simulation difficulty comes with the speed of it. We knew we were really going to have to work to settle in. We talked about it all week.”

Harding Academy held Booneville to just 43 yards on its next five series.

2. Weighing the options

Ray scored two more touchdowns on a pair of 1-yard runs and guided the Booneville option attack to 278 yards on 47 carries.

Ray also completed a pass for 11 yards to Chance Broussard.

Booneville did just have 11 first downs.

“We knew we had to keep our offense on the field,” Booneville head coach Doc Crowley said. “We didn’t do that. They did some really good things, defensively.

“Credit to them. They’re the best football team we played all season.”

Ray finished with 24 carries for 185 yards.

“A player the caliber of Ray, you’re not going to completely shut him out,” Evans said. “I don’t know if I have more respect for a player from watching him on film than him.

“He’s absolutely everything he’s hyped up to be and more. He carries himself completely different than many high school kids I’ve seen. He’s got a different demeanor. It’s impressive.”

Ray finished the season with 224 carries for 1,744 yards and 25 touchdowns.

3. However

After Booneville’s scoring drive to open the game, Harding Academy took over.

The Wildcats scored on six first-half series and took a 42-14 lead at the half.

“They’re a good football team, and we knew that,” Crowley said. “My goodness, they’re going to be tough for anybody to stop. They were better than us tonight, and I think they will be for most people.”

The Wildcats had 21 plays for 351 yards in the first half.

4. Miller time

Harding Academy is known more for passing quarterbacks, and Caden Sipe is no exception, but the Wildcats rode the running of running back Andrew Miller on Friday.

“They’re not one-dimensional,” Crowley said. “They’ve got the running back there and then up front they’re huge. They’ve got 5A and 6A guys up front.

“We were out-manned a little bit. Our kids gave everything they had. It just wasn’t enough.”

Miller scored four touchdowns in the first quarter to stake Harding Academy to a 28-7 lead going into the second quarter.

Miller scored on runs of 3, 57, 41 and finally 30 yards on the final play of the opening quarter.

Miller added a 27-yard touchdown run with 5:14 left in the second quarter to push Harding Academy up, 35-7.

Miller had nine carries for 192 yards in the first half and finished with 11 totes for 196 yards.

He also caught three passes for 51 yards and returned two kickoffs for 45 yards, resulting in 292 all-purpose yards on 16 touches.

5. New era

The 2020 season started a new era for the Bearcats with Doc Crowley taking over the storied program in January less than a week after Scott Hyatt retired.

“We just told those seniors, they beat Ozark which is something they hadn’t done,” Crowley said. “Then to win the fourth conference championship in a row, which is something they can hang their hats on.

“I’m super proud of these seniors. There are only 11 of them, but they’re great kids. It (is tough) to see it end.”

The Bearcats also recorded their 27th season of 10 or more wins, which is second in the state behind only Nashville.

“The kids make it easy, they come to work every day,” Crowley said. “I’ve always wanted to be here and I’m so thankful to be here and have this job. I’m blessed with people around me.

“These kids are probably always going to be out-sized and out-manned, but they’re going to fight like (crazy). Sometimes, we’re just not going to come out on top. We just ran into a buzz-saw.”


At Harding University, Searcy



Harding Academy;28;14;10;0;—;52

First Quarter

Boo – Ray 73 run (Kent kick), 10:58

Har – Miller 3 run (Ferrie kick), 8:26

Har – Miller 57 run (Ferrie kick), 4:15

Har – Miller 41 run (Ferrie kick), 2:08

Har – Miller 30 run (Ferrie kick), :00

Second Quarter

Har – Miller 27 run (Ferrie kick), 5:14

Boo – Ray 1 run (Kent kick), 1:490

Har – Dugger 58 pass from Sipe (Ferrie kick), 1:04

Third Quarter

Har – Neal 52 pass from Sipe (Ferrie kick), 11:13

Har – FG Ferrie 39, 1:47

Fourth Quarter

Boo – Ray 1 run (Kent kick), 10:13


Boo Har

First downs 11 16

Total yards 289 458

Rushes-yards 47-278 20-194

Passing yards 11 264

Passing (C-A-I) 1-7-1 15-18-0

Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-0

Penalties 4-30 6-60

Punts-avg. 3-27.3 1-40.0


RUSHING – Booneville, Ray 24-185, Herrera 4-40, Wooldridge 8-26, Broussard 7-24, Ritchie 2-2, Ross 2-1. Harding Academy, Miller 11-196, Sipe 3-16, Wilhite 1-1, team 1-(minus 1), Smith 4-(minus 17).

PASSING – Booneville, 1-7-1 11. Harding Academy, Sipe 12-13-0 241, Smith 3-5-0 23.

RECEIVING – Booneville, Broussard 1-11. Harding Academy, Neal 3-84, Dugger 3-80, Miller 3-51, McGaha 2-22, Koch 2-10, Citty 1-17, Justice 1-0.