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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bye-bye monkey

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Photo/Sparks SACK MACHINE: Vinnie Roberto drags down Pocahontas quarterback Mathew Sullivan on a muddy, sloppy field at Rebel Memorial Stadium Oct. 23. Highland shutout the Redskins 28-0, giving the Rebs their first win over Pocahontas in almost a decade.
The driving rain during the previous night's junior high game made Rebel Memorial Field look like a swimming pool with all of the standing water, but by Friday night, the playing surface transformed into mud soup.

It would be easy to say that a muddy field equals a Rebel advantage, but the stats says Highland beat Pocahontas with solid defense, a powerful running game and some timely passing.

And not to be forgotten, the Highland Rebels finally beat Pocahontas for the first time under Rebel Head Coach Clay Wiggins' leadership.

The 28-0 victory over the Redskins on Oct. 24 doesn't make up for nine years of losses, but it's sure a good start.

"That feels great. I've had a monkey on my back with Pocahontas for a long time," said Wiggins. "That felt really good."

Highland's major foes this season have been turnovers and penalties.

The Rebels suffered one turnover, an interception, which says a lot, given that both teams constantly dropped the muddy ball, but found a way to cover it.

As for the penalties, maybe the officials didn't want to get their flags dirty, but the game only had three penalties; one for the Rebels and two for Pocahontas. It's harder to jump offsides when you're stuck in the mud.

Defensively, the Rebels held the Redskin offense to negative-16 yards in the first half, and only gave up 13 yards for the game.

Pocahontas ran 26 non-punting offensive plays.

Senior defensive end Vinnie Roberto led the team with six tackles, as he often busted into the backfield before the offensive line was even out of their stance.

"As you could see tonight, they had a real hard time trying to block him," explained Wiggins. "It's hard to believe he's only played football for two years."

Pocahontas was forced to punt on its first three possessions.

The Redskins' third punt actually came on a third down, because a fumbled snap lost five yards on first down and Roberto sacked quarterback Matthew Sullivan for a 14-yard loss that pushed the Redskins into third-and-29 from the 12-yard line.

Offensively, Highland relied heavily on Blake Martin and Scott Gatewood to trudge the ball up the middle, but Michael Tarver proved that a runner could overcome the field conditions to find the corner on the sweep.

The Rebels took the ball at their own 26-yard line on their first series.

Martin and Gatewood picked up nine yards each on first and second down. The duo added another six yards to make it third-and- 4 when Tarver took the ball past the right end, found an opening and scampered 45 yards to the Redskin 5.

Two plays later, Gatewood pushed his way in for the score. Landon Strobbe could not hit the PAT, but the Rebels were up 6-0 with 7:40 left in the first quarter.

Senior running back Brandon Sharp got the Reb offense off on the right foot on their second drive with an 8-yard rush, but Highland's only penalty came on second down, a holding call, pushing the ball back to the Pocahontas 44.

On fourth-and-5, quarterback Will Edmondson hit his tight end, Strobbe, for a 19-yard reception to keep the drive alive.

Martin and Gatewood moved the ball to the 9-yard line and Tarver swept to the right for the score and a 12-0 lead, still in the first period.

The Redskin defense stopped a 50-yard Rebel drive on downs at the 1-yard line.

Redskin running back Luke Smith picked up two yards on first down, but Roberto dropped him in the end zone on second down for the safety to give the Rebels a 14-0 advantage.

It took 12 plays, but the Reb offense scored again after the safety when Edmondson found Tarver on a 10-yard slant pass.

This score was made possible because of Kenny Nicholson hauled in an Edmondson pass on third-and-long.

Nicholson also caught the 2-point conversion pass to make the score 22-0 at the end of the half.

In the second half, Highland nearly scored on its second possession, but defensive back Dylan Ford intercepted a Edmondson pass meant for Nicholson in the end zone.

The Rebs did score on the next drive, using the night's most exciting play that featured Tarver finding the right sideline on the sweep and darting 71 yards for the TD and the 28-0 win.

"We came out and mud is everywhere again, but I don't think the mud had anything to do with it. I think we played well. We ran the ball hard. We blocked," said Wiggins. "We played really hard. I saw another level of energy than what I've seen in the last few weeks."

Tarver led the team with 144 yards on 12 carries, followed by Gatewood with 14 rushes for 91 yards and Martin 21 for 88.

Highland finds itself in a three-way tie for fourth place with Trumann and Valley View.

All three teams are looking for the fourth or fifth spot in the playoffs, but those two teams have beaten the Rebels, giving them the advantage.

Valley View finishes the regular season with Pocahontas and Westside. Trumann will face Westside and Newport.

Highland will need to find a win against Osceola on Oct. 30 or Gosnell on Nov. 5 to have a chance at post season play.

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