Coach Keith Fimple’s first season ended with the Conway Wampus Cats 31-17 loss to Bentonville West, but a 10-3 record isn’t anything to get upset about.
The Wampus Cats began the season with a new running back, quarterback, four new linebackers among other things and Fimple after former coach Clint Ashcraft took over athletic director duties from retiring Steve Daniels.
On Friday night in Bentonville, the Wampus Cats couldn’t replicate its 48-40 win in the second round of the 7A playoffs.
Instead, Conway did put up a fight.
Both teams seemed to trade punches, with the Wolverines starting the scoring on a 48-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Will Jarrett to senior running back Tyrese Smallwood with 4:50 left in the first quarter.
The play was set up by a 25-yard run by running back Tanner Anderson.
Conway then put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 23-yard touchdown from senior quarterback Jovoni Johnson to sophomore running back Bryce Bohannon with 11:03 left in the second quarter.
The Wolverines scored quickly again, this time on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett to senior wide receiver Jadon Jackson with 9:50 left in the half.
After a personal foul penalty on Conway, Bentonville West had a short field and elected to kick onside, which it recovered at the Wampus Cats’ 33.
Instead of giving up another touchdown on the short field, Conway held the Wolverines to a 41-yard field goal, going up 17-7.
The Wampus Cats answered back on a 20-yard field goal behind the leg of junior kicker Will Hogue.
Despite having one more shot before halftime to increase its lead, Bentonville West couldn’t get anything going, heading into halftime at 17-10.
The Wolverines received the ball out of halftime and taking full advantage, scored on a 15-yard rushing touchdown by Jackson after burning nearly three minutes of clock in the third quarter.
After chipping away yardage, Conway answered when Johnson scampered for a 58-yard touchdown run, leading to a 24-17 score.
The Wampus Cats defense forced an Anderson fumble and recovered the ball, setting up at the Wolverines’ 43.
Looking to tie the game and do what it has done several times before throughout the season, however, a scary moment happened when Johnson tried to pick up a first down on a 3rd-and-short situation.
When he was hit, he went to the ground and didn’t move much.
After several minutes, he was put on a stretcher and went to a local hospital.
The Conway Schools Twitter account gave an update that said : “As many of you may know, our quarterback Jovoni Johnson was injured in last night’s football game against Bentonville West. He has been fully checked and cleared by doctors and is now resting and recovering at home. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and concerns.”
Johnson’s injury meant the Wampus Cats had to go with junior quarterback Nick McCuin the rest of the way.
Both offenses sputtered throughout much of the rest of the game until Bentonville West put the icing on the cake late in the fourth quarter when Anderson ran for a 29-yard touchdown.
Bentonville West moves on to face North Little Rock next week while Conway will head into its offseason.