Conway Christian’s 35-12 win over Danville in Monday’s Arkansas BlueCross and BlueShield Kickoff Classic featured oddities, injuries and the start of the Justin Kramer era.
Oddities and injuries were things new CCS coach Justin Kramer pointed to first game jitters at First Security Field at Estes Stadium.
After a turnover on downs by Danville, the Eagles drove 55 yards on its opening drive, which ended in a 20-yard touchdown run by senior running back Luke Gates.
After that, the oddities began.
The Little Johns’ junior wide receiver Trent Cathey dropped the ensuing kickoff to the ground at the Danville 10-yard line, then he picked the ball up and ran 90 yards for a touchdown.
It didn’t end there, however, as CCS’s punt was blocked on their next possession, setting up the Little Johns at the Eagles’ 37.
One play later, Danville junior quarterback Preston Donnell’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by CCS sophomore defensive lineman Clay Hammett, which he returned 72 yards for a touchdown, setting the score at 14-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles’ junior kicker Bennett Ellis kicked the ball out of bounds, resulting in a penalty and set up the Little Johns at their 35.
After a pair of runs, Donnell pitched the ball backward, which junior fullback Quentin Tolbert missed, resulting in a fumble recovery for CCS defensive lineman Sam Hicks at the Danville 21.
After forcing the Eagles to a fourth down, a neutral zone infraction by Danville led to a CCS first down, eventually leading to an 8-yard touchdown run by offensive lineman Russell Jackson. The Eagles led 21-6, heading into the second quarter.
From that point, both teams played a relatively clean game, barring injuries and a few penalties.
Danville closed the gap to nine points on its first drive in the second quarter when Tolbert scored on a 1-yard run.
However, CCS scored two more touchdowns, putting the game out of reach.
Kramer credited the Eagle defense for playing strong after challenging defensive line against the Class 3-2A favorite.
"We challenged our defensive line because everyone has been talking about Danville’s offensive line, averaging 260 pounds," he said. "They were really good, but we spent the last week and a half challenging our defensive line, telling them if we are going to win this game, you have to take over and let our linebackers play.
"I thought they did that. I think Danville is going to have a great year. It’s a phenomenal football team. It’s one of those games you could play five different ways and it could go either way, and we just happened to get away with it today."
Kramer said it was great to get his first win with CCS against the repeat 3-2A champions.
"To us, that was the main reason we wanted this game," Kramer said. "We wanted to get a challenge right off the bat to see where we are at."
Though a more high-scoring offense, the Eagles threw for just 69 yards Monday, while the running game accounted for 247 yards.
Gates finished the game with 101 yards rushing and one touchdown on 22 attempts.
CCS will have a break before playing its next game Sept. 8 at Mountain View.
Pea Ridge surged past Hampton, 50-30, in the preliminary games.
The doubleheader was presented by hootens.com.