Varnado struggles in 4th quarter, falls in playoffs

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, November 16, 2013

Varnado led 20-17 after three quarters, but Arcadia, which ran for 404 yards and was without quarterback Dan Fields (illness), scored 18 unanswered fourth-quarter points to top host VHS, 35-20, in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs Friday.

“They kicked the field goal. We came back, scored (Dominique Harry on a 10-yard run) and took the lead (20-17),” Varnado coach Scott Shaffett said. “We had a couple of opportunities where we got holding penalties that really hurt, and in the fourth quarter, you can’t afford penalties. That was a killer. You can’t afford that.”

No. 16 Varnado, which finishes with a 2-9 record, had a great chance to add to a 20-17 advantage.

After they went in front, the Wildcats forced the 17th-seeded Hornets (3-8) to punt from Arcadia’s 30. But the kick was shanked and went into the stands behind Varnado’s bench at the Hornets 38 with 45 seconds left in the third.

A holding penalty pushed VHS back, and the Wildcats punted from the 48.

Arcadia went to work. The Hornets, who used several players at quarterback, drove 76 yards in nine plays with Mike Wommack keeping and scoring from 4 yards out. Cody Walker blocked the extra point, which kept it 23-20.

Arcadia ran the ball 56 times in 57 plays.

Varnado turned it over on downs on the next drive at its own 36. A fake punt pass from Dominique Harry to Nick Darden was complete but came up short of the marker. Darden had 61 yards rushing.

On the first play Richard Rogers, who ran for 212 yards on 18 carries, raced 36 yards to the end zone. The PAT was no good, but it was 29-20 with 5:16 remaining.

VHS turned it over on downs in four plays at its 24. Ryan Tobin then tallied from the 8, and the PAT was blocked to finalize the scoring at 35-20 with 3:22 showing.

Despite being down Varnado marched right down the field and reached the 8. The key play was J.J. Williams hitting Nick Darden for 30 yards.

But on first-and-goal Williams attempted a pass across the middle, and it was intercepted in the end zone by Kordell Cortez with 2:32 left.

Arcadia, which travels to play top-seeded Haynesville for the regional round, ran out the clock, ending Varnado’s season.

The last day of the season is always tough, but for coach Shaffett, it was the last game he got the opportunity to coach his son Champ, who was one of nine seniors on the roster.

“It’s always awesome when you’ve got your own son,” Shaffett said. “It’s my last time to ever coach him, and I’ve been coaching him since he was in T-ball at 4 or 5. It’s tough to see him go. I’ve got to coach him my last two years. It’s not always easy, but I can tell you what, it’s tough because when you love somebody that much, it makes it hard.”

He said he is proud of all of his seniors.

“If you go back, after week two, I saw a change in this football program,” Shaffett said. “These kids never missed practice. They were there. We were 0-7, and our kids were here at practice every day. We had fair week, our kids were at practice every day.”

Shaffett said things are going in the right direction at Varnado, and it is because of the senior class.

“When the seniors are here, and they show what they are supposed to, those younger guys follow,” Shaffett said. “I think the seniors led out tonight, and they worked their (tails) off. They never quit; they played until the last second.

“We’ve got some great great young kids who are going to follow, and they’re going to just improve the program.”

Harry, a senior, led the Wildcats’ rushing attack with 94 yards and two touchdowns.

“The senior class, it was good, a lot of leadership,” Harry said.