(Charles Henry Ford II / Carroll County News)
After trailing 14-0 late in the first period and 21-6 mid-way through the second, Berryville appeared to be in contention with the visiting Hillbillies. But Ozark (4-1, 1-1) rattled off 26 unanswered points to spoil homecoming festivities for the Bobcats, now 1-3 overall and 0-2 in division action.
The Cats managed just 125 total yards of offense without the services of junior running back Ethan Chapin, who is still questionable after missing the conference tilt with bruised ribs he suffered against Lincoln.
Deonte Payton led the ground game with 18 carries for 49 yards and Berryville's only score, a 1-yard plunge following a Jerry Valdez interception.
Valdez was a bright spot for the Bobcats, searching for an answer to offset the loss of Chapin, the team's leading back and an integral part of the defense.
Berryville coach Eric Daniel moved Valdez to strong safety prior to Friday's outing and replaced the vacated linebacker position by sophomore Kraig Kendrick. Valdez was moved to accommodate the loss of junior Alec Jones, who suffered a concussion against Lincoln. His status is awaiting further evaluation.
"Jerry had been playing linebacker and did a great job for us there," Daniel said. "He led us in tackles as a sophomore and just has a nose for the ball. He adapted very quickly after only two days of practice back there and did a great job."
Valdez jumped on an aerial offering by Ozark quarterback Drew Harris with 8:30 left in the second frame and returned it to the Hillbilly 30-yard line where a face mask penalty moved the ball to the 15. Tyler Coatney took the first handoff for nine yards to the 4-yard line and Payton finished the drive three plays later.
Valdez also proved his value to special teams with 96 return yards, including 66 on kickoff returns.
"He played his butt off," Daniel said. "He did a great at linebacker but for us to have our 11 strongest on the field we thought it was better to have him back there at safety. And Kendrick did a great job at linebacker. He and Brett Sooter did well up there."
Sooter continues to be a ball hound for the Bobcats defensively. He led the squad with six solo stops and four assists and recorded a forced fumble. Vladez added a fumble recovery and also recovered an on-side kick in the second half.
Kendrick finished with a pair of solos and seven assists in his first full game at the position.
Selvin Reyes added three solo tackles and sophomore Tate Ferguson added a solo stop and an assist.
Ferguson also led the receiving corp with a catch for 29 yards. Sophomore Richard Webb caught one for 12, junior Evan Youngblood hauled in one for 10, senior Forest Usrey caught one for five and junior Kollyn Scitern caught one for four yards.
Junior Cody Powell completed 3-of-9 pass attempts for 27 yards and an interception while sophomore Garrett Stone connected on 2-of-10 passes for 29 yards.
Berryville hits the road this week as the Bobcats visit Farmington (4-1, 1-1).
"They are going to run sweeps and throw the underneath ball then try to hit a bomb on you," Daniel said. "They may be the most athletic team in the conference."