By the tenuous measuring stick of year-to-year scrimmage games, the Conway Wampus Cats showed significant strides Tuesday night.
Last year, the Cats’ first-team offense did not score against Fort Smith Northside. This year, in a benefit game at Centennial Bank Field at John McConnell Stadium, the Cats’ first- and second-team offense put their claws into the Grizzlies.
From late in the first quarter to halftme in the 24-minute first half, the Cats rang up 28 straight points and took a 35-10 advantage in the first segment of the scrimmage. The teams played two 10-minute quarters in the second half with the reserves and Conway took a 22-0 advantage. With an extra eight-minute period with a mixture of reserves and regulars, the Grizzlies scored a touchdown.
"We started slowly on both offense and defense, but we relaxed and started playing and we got better," Conway coach Clint Ashcraft said. "I was pleased with how we adapted both offensively and defensively and how the players adjusted to what their coaches were telling them."
Running back Jemarkus Harmon, who was a problem for Northside most of the evening, started Conway off with a 58-yard score run after a sharp cut off tackle. Northside then scored on a 26-yard field goal by Luis Martinez and a 9-yard pass from Tanner Knight to Shaquille Jones. to take a 10-7 lead with 6:05 left in the first period.
Then, it was all Conway.
The Cat defense began adjusting to the Grizzlies’ passing game and shut down their attack the remainder of the half.
"It took awhile to figure out what they were doing," Ashcraft said. "We had a chance to make a lot of plays the first quarter. The more we played, we made those plays."
Harmon scored on an 8-yard run, then Cordarius Irby, the Cats’ big power back, scored on a 1-yard run. Quarterback Tyler Langley connected for a 29-yard touchdown to Brandon Cox. After an interception, Conway returned to its power game and Irby scored on a 1-yard run to up the advantage to 35-10 at the half.
"Irby is a big back, a strong back up the middle; he gives us a good contrast to Harmon, who is good on the outside," Ashcraft said.
In the second half, the Cats’ Corven Alexander scored twice on 28-yard runs, quarterback Tim Boyd scored on a 10-yard keeper and Ivan Pelayo booted a 34-yard field goal.
With no rush in the limited kicking game format of the scrimmage, Pelayo kicked eight extra points and the field goal.
"I was pleased with that because he had never played a game of football in his life until tonight," Ashcraft said. "And in the second half, I thought our youngsters did a great job."
The Wampus Cats now start preparing for Fort Smith Southside, their opponent in the Sept. 3 opener.