Conway Christian is still in the running for a home playoff game after popping Bigelow 44-16 Friday night in front of an overflow homecoming crowd at Mission Field.
The Eagles (4-3, 3-2) needed to pick up the win against the Panthers to stay alive for the postseason after losing two conference games to Danville and Mountain Pine. Conway Christian responded by getting 176 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries from Adam Ragland. And, Jeremy Jacobs had a breakout performance while nabbing four passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
"It felt good to get this one," Ragland said. "I give all the credit to the Lord and to the linemen. We worked really hard this week and came in prepared."
Conway Christian coach Chuck Speer knew just how important this win was for the program, echoing many of the same things that Ragland said.
"I’m proud of all of the guys for preparing this week from the scout team guys to the starters. Everyone played an important role," Speer said. "It started out like a typical homecoming game with all of those mistakes. This was a big win for us because it at least locks up fourth place in our conference. It should come down to our game with Two Rivers to determine third place."
Leading 22-16 with fewer than three minutes left in the first half, the Eagles found success through the air.
Conway Christian’s Jackson Wilson intercepted a pass at the Eagles’ 20. The Panthers stuffed the Eagles on two straight running plays, leading to third-and-long. Kirby Powell took the snap, then dropped back and hit Jeremy Jacobs breaking out of his skinny post. Jacobs caught the ball in front of the cornerback at the Conway Christian 45 and outran him to the end zone. The 82-yard pass play was the Eagles’ longest pass play from scrimmage this season.
The Powell-to-Jacobs connection hooked up again with five seconds left before the half. Powell threw deep to Jacobs on a fade route and hit him in stride on the 56-yard pass play. The touchdown gave Conway Christian a 36-16 lead going into the half. Jacobs had 142 yards and two touchdowns on just three receptions.
"I felt like I could beat my guy," Jacobs said. "The line did a great job of blocking, and Kirby put the ball on the money. I just did the easy part."
Conway Christian lost two fumbles in the first half that led to 16 points, but the Eagles answered right back.
The first turnover came on the Eagles’ opening drive of the game. Conway Christian’s Bates Isom was gang-tackled and one of the Panthers stripped the ball and pounced on it at the 17. Bigelow marched down the field, and finally Spencer Langston scored from a yard out with 2:55 left in the first quarter. Isom helped make up for the lost fumble by scoring on a 20-yard a minute and a half after the Panthers’ touchdown. Mark Harris scored on the two-point conversion attempt to tie the game at 8.
Ragland coughed the ball up for Conway Christian’s second turnover at their 19, with 13 seconds in the opening quarter. On fourth and two, the Panthers found the end zone on an 11-yard pass from Langston to Luke Starks. Langston hit Justin Sutherland on the two-point play, which gave the Panthers a 16-8 lead. Ragland shook off the fumble on the Eagles’ next play from scrimmage by rumbling 62 yards for a touchdown at the 10:20 mark. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
Harris gave Conway Christian its first lead, after rolling 40 yards for a touchdown with 5:31 left before half. Jacobs caught a pass on the two-point conversion attempt to put the Eagles ahead 22-16.
The Eagles intercepted three passes, which led to touchdowns.
Jacobs intercepted one in the first half, and Jordan Legree picked another pass off with 7:08 left in the third.
The most spectacular grab of the night came when Jonathan Watson intercepted a pass with one arm. Watson, who has a cast on his left hand after breaking two fingers in the Eagles’ win over Quitman two weeks ago, returned it 36 yards down to the Bigelow 37. Mark Harris scored on a 3-yard run shortly after.
"The first thing that I thought was to protect the football because I only have one hand," Watson said. "The blockers were out in front of me with my bad wing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish because I caught a cramp."
Conway Christian didn’t allow a point in the final three quarters.
Watson, who entered the game as the leader in tackles and tackles for loss in Faulkner County with 71 and six, wreaked havoc on Langston and the Panthers’ backfield all night.
"Once we overcame those scores, we figured out what they were doing," Speer said. "Our defense played tough."