A lot was made this week of Springdale’s 13-year playoff drought.
The real story of Friday’s game with Southside, however, was the gritty second half play of the Southside Mavericks’ defense.
Taye Gatewood led the Mavericks on two fourth quarter touchdown drives, converting two fourth downs along the way, as Southside rallied to beat the Bulldogs, 35-28, at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium.
Southside (6-5) travels to North Little Rock on Friday.
Springdale ends the season at 6-5, and still hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005.
Landen Chaffey, Bennett Weindel, Cole Estes, Shawn Rogers, Mason Gregory and Jaylin Coleman made one defensive stop after another, holding Springdale’s Garrett Vaughan to just 33 second half yards.
“In the second half, I think we had a little bit more want-to,” Weindel said. “It took one person to get us going, and after that we all jumped in.”
“Our defense has played a lot better the last three or four weeks,” Southside coach Jeff Williams said. “I thought they played real well tonight and made the plays we needed to make.”
Down 28-21 after three quarters, thanks to a crazy 29-yard fumble return to the Mavericks 10, that led to Garrett Vaughan’s 3-yard touchdown run, Gate led the Mavericks on a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives. His key 21-yard pass to Colton McBride, followed by Ricardo Savoy’s 9-yard run, led to Savoy’s tying touchdown with 8:36 left in the game.
After forcing a three-and-out, spurred by Chaffey’s tackle of Vaughan on third-and-two, Gatewood and the Mavericks went to work from their 45.
Gatewood’s third-and-four pass to Erich Swchwarz moved the chains to the 29. And on fourth-and-one from the 20, Gatewood saw a seam and sprinted 20 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:36 left in the game.
“The second half, they did a great job. They really made the run tough on us,” Springdale coach Zak Clark said. “They made some adjustments and made it tough on us. We would move it and then on third or fourth down, we just couldn’t do it.”
“The offensive line did a great job tonight,” Gatewood said. “We had a bunch of guys blocking and making holes for me and Rico (Savoy), and I give credit to them.”
Gatewood finished 12-of-18 for 186 yards and two scores.
Savoy had 26 carries for 141 yards.
Clark felt like he let his team down late in the first half. After an interception gave Springdale the ball at the Mavericks’ 18, Bulldogs’ quarterback Will Mueller was intercepted by Gregory who danced his way to the 21.
Gatewood ran for 13 yards to the 34, and two plays later hit Tyrese Solomon with a 55-yard touchdown pass with 53 seconds left in the half. The 14-point swing was huge.
“I probably screwed it up there at the end of the first half,” Clark said. “There was a minute-and-a-half left and we had it in the red zone. I probably should have run it out, knowing we were going to get the ball, and settled for a field goal. It didn’t happen.
“That’s a big 10 or 7-point swing.”
Both teams traded some early jabs. The Bulldogs forced the Mavericks into a three-and-out to start the game, then needed five plays to drive 63 yards for a go-ahead score, capped by Vaughan’s 8-yard touchdown run.
The Mavericks responded in a matter of seconds. After Savoy’s 13-yard run, Gatewood found Solomon behind the Bulldogs’ secondary for a 64-yard touchdown. Just like that, the game was tied.
Springdale went ahead, 14-7, after one quarter of play when Brock Pounders got free for a 59-yard touchdown catch with 2:43 left in the first half.
Southside drove 63 yards in 12 plays for its second score of the game. Savoy carried the ball on six straight snaps, bulling ahead for 39 of his 63 first half yards.
Solomon caught six catches for 135 yards and the two scores....