Bobcats roll past Panthers: Henry’s punt return is biggest of big plays
By Scott Loftis
The Berryville Bobcats had to adjust to an offensive change by the Yellville-Summit Panthers.
The Panthers, on the other hand, couldn’t make enough adjustments to stop the Bobcats’ big plays as Berryville rolled to a 43-6 victory Friday night at Yellville.
Berryville (2-1) rushed for 324 yards and five touchdowns and got a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown from junior Dominic Henry.
“We felt like we could dominate on both sides of the line,” Berryville coach Doug Shott said.
The Bobcats grabbed the momentum early, as sophomore linebacker Jaeden Tanksley intercepted a pass on Yellville-Summit’s first play from scrimmage and returned it 22 yards to the Panthers’ 22. Berryville scored three plays later on a 7-yard run by senior Tristan Updegraff. Armando Mojica’s extra-point kick gave the Bobcats a 7-0 lead with 10:55 remaining in the first quarter.
Yellville-Summit’s next possession also ended in a turnover as sophomore linebacker Kennon Helmlinger recovered a fumble inside the Berryville 5 and returned it to the 14.
Four plays later, Berryville faced fourth and inches from its own 33 when junior quarterback J.D. Smith kept the ball straight up the middle and ran for 36 yards to the Yellville-Summit 31.
“The line did a good job of sealing things off and J.D. did the rest,” Shott said.
Two plays later, Updegraff broke free off left tackle and scored on a 26-yard run. The extra point extended Berryville’s lead to 14-0 with 2:14 left in the quarter.
Yellville-Summit responded with its only score of the game. After a facemask penalty gave the Panthers (0-3) a first down at the Berryville 8, running back Sam Robinson scored on a swing pass from quarterback Eli Cagle.
“They changed offenses on us,” Shott said. “All we had seen on film was a double-slot and they went back to the Spread against us. It took us a little while to adjust to it.”
After each team turned the ball over on downs, Berryville took possession at midfield. On third-and-3 from the Yellville-Summit 43, senior fullback Brett Parsons gained six yards off right tackle. A false-start penalty pushed Berryville back to the 42 and after a run for no gain and an incomplete pass, the Bobcats called timeout facing third-and-15 from the 42.
After the timeout, Updegraff lined up at wingback and streaked down the middle of the field. Smith took a short drop and fired the ball to Updegraff just inside the Yellville-Summit 20, and Updegraff got to the 3-yard line before being tackled. Tanksley scored on the next play and Mojica’s extra point made it 21-6 with 3:31 left in the second quarter.
“We felt like we could get behind them,” Shott said of the long pass to Updegraff. “J.D. made a good throw and Tristan did a good job catching it and picking up some yards.”
Unfortunately for Berryville, Updegraff was injured on the play. Shott said Updegraff has a sprained ankle that will keep him out of this week’s game against Shiloh Christian.
“While the play was productive, unfortunately we lost Tristan for a while,” Shott said.
Trailing by 15 points, Yellville-Summit tried an onside kick to start the second half but Berryville junior Harley Tittsworth recovered at the Bobcats’ 48. That set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Parsons with 7:32 left in the third quarter. Mojica’s kick made it 28-6.
If there was any suspense left, Henry ended it with his punt return touchdown. He fielded the ball on a bounce at the Berryville 33, started to his right, picked up a block from Mojica, then broke three tackles before cutting back to his left and racing down the sideline for the score. The extra point by Mojica extended Berryville’s lead to 35-6 with 4:56 left in the third quarter.
“It was an outstanding return,” Shott said. “He’s pretty shifty. He’s not that fast. He’s not slow, but he’s quicker than he is fast.”
Filling in for Updegraff in the backfield, Henry put the finishing touches on the Berryville victory with a 6-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds left in the third quarter. Berryville lined up to kick the extra point, but Smith instead threw to junior Jarrett Stringer for the two-point conversion and a 43-6 lead.
Tanksley had 69 yards on seven carries to lead five Bobcats with more than 40 yards rushing. Smith carried six times for 52 yards. Henry had six carries for 50 yards while Updegraff and Parsons added 41 yards apiece. Updegraff carried the ball six times and Parsons had nine carries.
Smith completed two of five passes, with the 39-yard strike to Updegraff and an 11-yard completion to Henry.
Berryville will open 4A-1 conference play on Friday, hosting Shiloh Christian (3-0). Kickoff time is 7 p.m. at Bobcat Stadium.