SALEM 8, HARDING?ACADEMY 42
You might say the Harding Academy Wildcats were a bit unhappy.
And why wouldn't they be?
After all, the Class 3A state finalists from a year ago had just absorbed a 52-15 thrashing at the hands of the Marshall Bobcats, a loss that was so lopsided that the Wildcats, who are the ones used to racking up such huge wins, actually felt what it was like to have the sportsmanship rule (a continually running clock in the second half when trailing by 35 or more points) invoked on themselves, for the first time in school history.
Unfortunately for the Salem Greyhounds, they were the ones that Harding Academy took its wrath out on, as the Wildcats put on quite a first-quarter show, topping Salem 42-8 in 2-3A play at First Security Stadium in Searcy Oct. 12.
The Hounds (1-6, 1-3) were just a week removed from notching their first victory of the 2007 season, but that momentum didn't carry far against Harding Academy (5-2, 3-1).
Using a scarily-efficient offensive attack, scoring on all five of its first quarter possessions, the Wildcats quickly got rid of the bad taste that getting pummeled by Marshall left in their mouth.
Salem squibbed the opening kick and the Wildcats took possession near midfield.
Just 10 seconds into the night, Harding Academy's Chase Gentry scampered 51 yards for a quick Wildcat touchdown. The PAT gave Harding Academy a 7-0 advantage.
The Wildcat defense held Salem to a three-and-out on its first series, forcing the Hounds to punt from deep in their own territory.
Harding Academy's Slade Hickmon got his hands on the punt, blocking it and falling on the ball at the Salem 4-yard line.
One snap later, Harding Academy led 14-0 as Ty Finley ran the ball in for a Wildcat TD.
Needing to hang onto the football and put together an extended scoring drive, the Greyhounds did every thing but that, as the Wildcats forced Salem into several costly mistakes the rest of the quarter to take complete control of the evening.
After a Greyhound turnover, Chase Gentry scored his second TD of the game, this one on a 9-yard run at the 7:35 mark. The extra-point pushed Harding Academy in front 21-0.
But the Wildcats were not done yet.
Harding Academy quarterback Matt Lincoln tossed two touchdown passes in the first quarter, one a 3-yarder to Lance Carr, the other a 9-yarder to J.T. Fisher, that gave the Wildcats a commanding 35-0 after one.
Harding Academy's offense was clicking on all cylinders, using just under two minutes of game time to post those 35 first-quarter points.
The Greyhounds did get on the scoreboard in the waning minutes of the third period, thanks to a 33-yard touchdown reception from Jason Huff.
Skylar Jones hit Corey Tyler for the 2-point conversion to make the score Harding Academy 35, Salem 8, after three.
The Wildcats rounded out their 42-8 victory with a 3-yard touchdown run from Kellen Fitzpatrick late in the fourth quarter.
Salem travels to Cave City Oct. 19 to tangle with the Cavemen.