On the way to their best start in school history, the Cave City Cavemen had followed a basic, yet important formula for victory.
Run the ball and play good defense.
That plan worked like a charm in Cave City's 7-0 start to the season, and the Cavemen picked up yards at will, running behind a big offensive line, while its defense was more than stingy, allowing just a shade over six points per contest during that span.
But that changed Oct. 23 in a battle of two of the top 3-3A Conference teams in Harrisburg.
The Hornets flipped the script on the Cavemen, controlling the clock with a potent running game while playing lights-out defense in a 26-7 victory over Cave City.
The loss was Cave City's first setback this season.
Harrisburg's (7-1, 4-1) win complicates things in the conference, tying the Hornets for first place with Cave City (7-1, 4-1), Rivercrest and Earle, teams with one conference loss apiece.
All the scoring in this one was done in the first half, as the Hornets jumped in front 20-0 and then played keep-away from Cave City.
Harrisburg's first series of the evening resulted in a five-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run from Hornet quarterback Zach Davis at the 5:16 mark of the first quarter, giving the home team a 6-0 lead.
With 1:21 left in the first quarter, Davis (eight-of-20, 194 yards passing) hit Jake Streeter with an 18-yard touchdown pass that gave Harrisburg a 12-0 advantage.
The Hornets' next TD was, at best, a bit confusing.
With a shade over nine minutes left before the half, Harrisburg called timeout and both squads were huddled with their respective coaches near their sidelines. Apparently, after the official blew his warning whistle that the timeout was ending, Davis, with coaches still on the field of play, ran up to the football and tossed it to Streeter.
Cave City caught on to the trick play, but by the time the Cavemen realized what was happening, Streeter was behind a pile of blockers and went 56-yards for a touchdown.
That seldom-seen play was ruled legal, and that play, along with the 2-point conversion pass, pushed Harrisburg to a 20-0 lead, Cave City's biggest deficit of the season.
But the Cavemen got on the board on their next series, thanks to a 47-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Carpenter to Thamail Morgan. William Boyd booted the PAT to cut the Hornets' lead to 20-7.
Harrisburg added another first-half score to its tally with a seven-play, 61-yard drive right before the half.
Hornet tailback Zach Pretty (145 yards rushing) crossed the goal line from two yards out with 1:12 on the clock, extending Harrisburg's lead to 26-7.
Cave City had an excellent shot to chip more points off the lead on its last series of the first half.
Aided by some costly penalties on Harrisburg, Cave City started with the ball near midfield and pushed it deep onto Harrisburg's side of the field. Morgan caught a couple of passes from Carpenter and the ball ended up at the Hornets' 3-yard line.
But things didn't work out as planned and Cave City fumbled the ball, snuffing out any potential points the drive might have produced.
In the second half, Harrisburg turned things over to its ground game and shut the Cavemen out, creating a huge pileup of four talented teams at the top of the 3-3A Conference standings.