November 21, 2012 Edition

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WR advances to quarterfinals

Bobcat quarterback Zach Crisler picks up some yards for Walnut Ridge during Friday night's game. The Cats will now face Murfreesboro on the road in the quarterfinals.
Submitted Photo ~ Lori Highfield

Walnut Ridge's Tyler Fry (left) and Chase Flippo take down a Strong runner during the Bobcats' 32-16 second-round state playoffs victory Friday night at Sexton Field.
Submitted Photo ~ Ashley George

Nathan Hibbard
Staff Writer

Midway through the first quarter, the Walnut Ridge Bobcats found themselves staring at a16-0 deficit against the Strong Bulldogs in their playoff game Friday night at Sexton Field.

Relying on a stingy defense and an offense that produced its usual big plays, the Bobcats dominated the remainder of the contest to earn a 32-16 victory and a trip to the quarterfinals of the 2A State Football Playoffs.

Walnut Ridge will travel to Murfreesboro for their next playoff assignment on Friday.

Strong took advantage of a couple of Walnut Ridge turnovers to build their early lead. After stopping the Bobcats on downs, the Bulldogs turned to a gadget play, as Will Smith hauled in a 40-yard pass off a reverse for their first score. The Bulldogs added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.

On their ensuing possession, the Bobcats drove to Strong's 41-yard line before coughing up the ball. Bulldog quarterback Jonanta Hicks unleashed a 59-yard scoring strike to Jacoby Heard. Another two-point conversion followed, giving the Bulldogs a 16-0 lead, which they carried into the second quarter.

Walnut Ridge would get on the board with 6:26 to play in the half on Zach Crisler's 13-yard fourth-down pass to Eric Wilcoxson. Crisler then carried in the conversion to cut Strong's lead to 16-8.

Later in the quarter, Walnut Ridge recovered a Strong fumble at the Bulldog's 17-yard line. On the first play following the turnover, Crisler found the end zone on a quarterback sweep with 3:07 left in the half. Crisler passed to Wilcoxson for the conversion, and the teams went to the locker room knotted 16-16.

The teams remained tied until Cole Hicks capped a 53-yard Walnut Ridge drive with an 18-yard run. Wilcoxson scored the conversion to put the Bobcats on top 24-16 with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter.

Walnut Ridge's defense, which held Strong to 68 yards of offense in the second half, turned in another big play to set up the clinching score late in the game. Wilcoxson forced a Bulldog fumble, which Hicks recovered at the Strong's 25-yard line. Again, the Bobcats would need only one play to capitalize on the turnover. Tyler Clement ran through the middle of the Bulldogs' defense for the Bobcats' fourth touchdown. Wilcoxson ran in for the conversion and the game's final points.

Walnut Ridge's offense featured a balanced ground attack, led by Crisler's 59 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Hicks had 58 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Wilcoxson ran for 57 yards on 10 carries. Clement carried nine times for 44 yards and a touchdown.

Crisler passed for 44 yards and a touchdown, and Wilcoxson caught four passes for 37 yards and a score.

Friday night's game against Murfreesboro will be broadcast on KRLW 103.1 FM and 1320 AM.

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