The rivalry factor narrowed the experience
gap as much as it could Monday afternoon.
But in the end Ozark's seven returning
starters proved to be the difference in a 22-15 victory over Clarksville at the
Alltel/Hootens. com Kickoff Classic at War Memorial Stadium.
Clarksville (0-1), a AAAA-West team with
just one returning starter, stayed with its former 4 AAA conference rival, but
big plays and a potent ground attack helped the Hillbillies hold on. "This game
is always going to be tight. I don't care who has what," first-year Ozark Coach
Michael Johnson said. "It's going to come down to whoever executes."
Both teams had their share of poor execution
Ozark overcame seven fumbles, including four
lost, and Clarksville quarterback Juan Elizondo had four passes intercepted, all
by Hillbillies junior defensive back James Hillard. "Our coaches said to stay
back in passing situations and that's what I did," Hillard said. "We all did
A turnover sealed the game when Hillard
intercepted an Elizondo pass at the Clarksville 23 with 1:13 remaining.
The outcome was in doubt before that because
Clarksville's aggressive defense stripped many of Ozarks' seven fumbles.
The last fumble recovery with 1:19 left gave
Clarksville its final comeback opportunity. "We executed well at times, but in
the end it was our inability to execute that cost us," Clarksville Coach Michael
Banning. "They have a lot more returning starters than we do and we had a lot of
sophomores all over the field, so I can't say how proud I am to come to Little
Rock and show up to play like we did." That doesn't make the loss any better,
but our young kids certainly came to play. "Ozark (1-0) outgained Clarksville
440-206, including 388-80 on the ground. Jonathan Flanagin rushed for 156 yards
on 14 carries and Ricky Garrett added 114 yards on 14 carries.
" We did a good job taking what they gave
us, but they had a great scheme for us, "Johnson said." Their defensive
coordinator did a great job to take our offense away from us and we had to
change things up. "The change was just enough to overcome the turnovers and a
quality start from Elizondo, who finished 11 of 26 for 126 yards." We haven't
fumbled twice in practice, but it seemed like we fumbled every other time
tonight, "Johnson said." I think it would have been a lot easier game for us if
we would have hung on to the ball. "
Ozark took an 8-0 lead with 26 seconds left
in the first quarter on a 7-yard run from Jared Reano and a two-point conversion
run from Hillard. That lead grew to 15-0 with 1:33 left in the first half on a
17-yard run from Flanagin, but a big third quarter from Clarksville made things
interesting. The Panthers opened the second half with a nine-play, 71-yard
drive, completed when Elizondo threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Nick Lyons with
Two plays into Ozark's ensuing drive,
Clarksville recovered a fumble and quickly tied the game when Elizondo connected
with Jonathan Brown on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 5:04 left in the quarter.
Ozark sealed the victory on a 17-yard
scoring run from Reano with 6:29 left in the game.