BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
In what can certainly be described as an epic road win, Nashville survived Elkins 63-62 last Friday to advance to the Class 4A state playoff semifinals.
The Scrappers (10-3), who will get a chance to avenge an earlier loss to conference foe and host Malvern (11-2) on Friday, did so in scintillating fashion going 80 yards with 20 seconds left.
Two plays later, Nashville quarterback Sloan Perrin hit Todderick Watson with a 76-yard scoring pass with six seconds left and then the Scrappers opted to go for the win instead of a tie with Perrin running in for the two-punt conversion.
It was an amazing night according to Nashville head coach Mike Volarich, whose team ended the night with 720 yards offense and over 500 yards rushing.
“I have won games at the end, won games on the last play, been a apart of high scoring games, higher scoring than this one – believe it or not with several of them, games where we have had a goal line, but never won a game with an 80-yard pass on the last play of the game,” Volarich said.
“It was a good one, but probably better as a fan than as a coach. You have to give a lot of credit to our kids for playing extremely hard and never giving up for four quarters.”
Elkins punted the ball to Nashville 20 with 31 seconds left after deciding to not go for it on a 4th and 1 in their own territory.
“We held them to where it was a 4th and 1 on their side of the field and they had to punt and we had 20 seconds and no timeouts,” Volarich said. “But we were able to go 80 yards in two plays. Obviously it was a great thrown by Sloan and a great catch by Todderick getting behind everybody, catching it and going in for the score.”
Elkins led 21-0 in the first quarter, 55-35 late in third quarter before Nashville rallied to tie it and then 62-55 when Da’Shawn Chairs raced in for a 57-yard touchdown in the fourth.
“We needed all four quarters to get it done, but our kids just continued to fight,” Volarich said. “We got down 21-0 in the first quarter, but I knew we were going to score some points because we moved the ball the first few times, but sputtered out with a couple of passes that didn’t go our way.
“Obviously we recovered three onside kicks, which was huge and we were able to capitalize on those and get back into the game.”
The game took on a interesting feel when fog rolled in during the second half.
“It was super foggy and that kind of added to whole feeling of the game,” Volarich said. “I don’t know how much it changed the game except for passing and the onside stuff.”
The other Class 4A semifinal on Friday night features a pair of unbeatens as Arkadelphia (11-0) travels to Harding Academy (11-0) with the two winners meeting for the Class 4A state title on Dec. 10 at noon at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.
Nashville will be trying to avenge a 48-34 loss at Malvern on Oct. 28 and has won its four games since that defeat.
“Malvern is obviously a really good football team with their only losses coming to Arkadelphia, who is a really good football team, and to Hernando, Mississippi, which is obviously a bigger school from out of state,” Volarich said.
The Leopards are led by senior quarterback Cedric Simmons (3,380 yards total offense, 32 touchdowns), senior tailback Jalen Dupree (2,436 yards rushing, 37 touchdowns), junior offensive lineman and Arkansas offer Vinnie Winters (6-5, 305) and receiver-defensive back Dylan Carradine (1,020 all-purpose yards, 5 interceptions).
“I think they arguably may have the four best players in our whole conference on their team,” Volarich said. “They are loaded with talent and they have a couple of guys who have been playing with them since they started as freshmen. They have played a lot of football games and had a lot of success.
“They are also extremely physical on both lines. You really can’t find a team has been able to just line up and running the football downhill on them. They don’t just have the Winters kid on the defensive line, they have a lot of them.”
Nashville was able to get things going offensively against Malvern it in the earlier clash.
“Last time we played Malvern we had like 460 yards of total yards on them and we rushed for over 300 yards,” Volarich said. “We did do some good things, but we have just got to play better honestly. We fumbled a punt return and some things like that we have to do better on.”
Volarich is sure his team believes that it can get to the championship game.
“Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence right now, which obviously is huge when you get kids thinking they can win, that is a big deal,” Volarich said.