The Conway Wampus Cats, on Friday night, finally broke through a barrier that has thwarted them for a decade.
Sophomore quarterback Breylin Smith passed for 335 yards and four touchdowns as the Cats prevailed in a shootout over Springdale Har-Ber, 52-42, in the 7A semifnals at Centennial Bank Field at John McConnell Stadium. It’s the first time the Cats (9-2), who had a first-round bye, have advanced to the state semifinals since the Peyton Hillis days in 2003.
Conway will travel to Bentonville on Friday for the semifinal contest. Cabot and North Little Rock will play at Cabot in the other semifinal.
"We knew it would be a four-quarter battle and you couldn’t relax until there were zeroes on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter," said Conway coach Clint Ashcraft.
The teams combined for 42 points (21-21) in a 48-minute first quarter and Conway led 35-28 before the Wildcats (8-4) tied it with an 80-yard drive to open the second half.
The game turned Conway’s way for good in the fourth quarter after the Wildcats, who incurred 13 penalties, were set back with an unsportsmanlike penalty after a 47-yard pass play. That ended up forcing a 48-yard field goal attempt by Ben O’Brien that missed badly and left the score tied at 42.
On third and eight at the CHS 43, Smith connected with Brock Mitchell to the Har-Ber 14. Two plays later, Kevin Chamorro put Conway up for good with a 9-yard TD run with 5:32 left.
Cortez Akins recovered a Har-Ber fumble on the Wildcat 14, leading to a 28-yard field goal by Matt Cummins that gave Conway a cushion with 1:38 left.
In passing for 281 yards the first half, Smith had touchdown passes of 20 and 65 yards to Sidney Moore, and 35 and 32 yards to A.J. Burton.
Chamorro had touchdown runs of 34, 13 and nine yards.
"I was proud of how our line opened holes for our backs and gave Breylin time to throw against a big Har-Ber line," said Ashcraft.
The Cats also did not have a turnover.
Har-Ber’s attack was slowed in the second half after Sean Matthew, who rushed for 206 yards three touchdowns, limped off the field with an injury.
Conway is the only surviving Faulkner County team in the playoffs as Conway Christian lost, 48-26, at Carlisle.
CARLISLE 48, CCS 26
The Bison (11-1) rushed for 496 yards in ending Conway Christian’s season at 6-6 with the 48-26 victory at Carlisle.
The Bison built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter before Chase Kehler got the Eagles back in the game with a 61-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Carlisle took a 22-6 lead in the second quarter on a 352-yard run by Justice Bryant. CCS drew within 22-12 lat4er in the quarter after Chandler Ferrand passed 7 yards to Casey Roark for a touchdown.
After Deron Ricks scampered 64 yards for a score for Carlisle in the third quarter, Ferrand passed 9 yards to Jon Mark Wood for a touchdown.
The Bison pulled away on touchdown runs by Ricks, Bo Weedle and Thomas McCallie in the third quarter.
Ferrand’s 1-yard run capped the scoring for CCS.
Ferrand was only five of 19 for 39 yards but rushed for 125 on 18 carries. Andrew Steely rushed for 57 yards and Seth Smith had a 60-yard run.
Ricks rushed for 245 yards for the Bison while Weedle had 101.