JONESBORO — Penalties aside, Nettleton coach Steven Hampton liked what he saw in the Raiders’ opening game two weeks ago.
Nettleton routed former 5A-East conference Blytheville 35-0 to kick off the 2021 season. The Raiders scored 21 points in the first quarter and tacked on a couple more touchdowns, which was more than enough on a night when their defense gave up just 101 total yards.
“I liked the effort that we played with defensively. Offensively I thought we executed pretty well. One thing we have to eliminate is penalties,” said Hampton, whose team was flagged 16 times in the opener. “We put ourselves behind the chains a couple of times, and we try to eliminate those things, but I really liked the effort and the energy we played with.”
After an unscheduled open week, the Raiders (1-0) look for another victory tonight in their home opener against Mountain Home (0-1). Kickoff at Raider Field is set for 7 p.m.
Nettleton received extra time to get ready for Mountain Home when last week’s home game against Pocahontas was postponed to Sept. 17 because of the Redskins’ COVID-19 concerns. Hampton said the Raiders worked their starting units against each other a couple of days in scrimmage-type settings.
“Fortunately we found out early in the week that we weren’t going to play and on Tuesday and Wednesday, we kind of got after it,” Hampton said. “We put the ball down and played football, good on good, had some thud scrimmage, some drives on Tuesday, and then Wednesday some red zone thud scrimmage. We started focusing in on Mountain Home on Thursday and Friday.”
Mountain Home nearly got the best of archrival Harrison in its opening game last week.
The Goblins, who are ranked third in Class 5A in the Arkansas Sports Media poll, escaped with a 28-21 victory when the Bombers lost a fumble just shy of the end zone in the final minute. The fumble was one of four Mountain Home turnovers.
“We’re expecting a really tough ballgame. They’re just solid, offense, defense and special teams, and they’re well-coached,” Hampton said. “There’s nothing glaring that they’re just going to give you. You’re going to have to earn everything. They’re going to play hard and physical.”
Nettleton took control of its opener quickly enough that all-state quarterback Cameron Scarlett didn’t have to shoulder a heavy load.
Scarlett finished with 77 yards and a touchdown on just four carries. He was 4-of-7 passing for 39 yards and two touchdowns.
“He played really well. We didn’t throw it a lot, but he was very efficient and very effective,” Hampton said. “He was not asked to run the ball a whole lot. We left that up to the running backs a little bit, but he made all the right reads and distributed the ball where it was supposed to go. I thought he played really well.”
Running back Koby Bradley was Nettleton’s rushing leader with 98 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Bradley also had a touchdown catch, as did Savion Floyd.
Linebacker Blake Brown was credited with three sacks to lead the Raiders defensively. Linebacker Orion Pugh forced a fumble that led to a safety.
Nettleton had won six consecutive games in its series with Mountain Home before absorbing a 41-7 loss to the Bombers last season. The victory snapped a 23-game losing streak for Mountain Home, which went on to post a 6-6 record and reach the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
Hampton said his team hasn’t spent any time dwelling on what happened last year at Mountain Home.
“We made some busts in the secondary, kind of uncharacteristic mistakes on offense, dropping snaps and stuff like that, that led to a very poor ballgame. We haven’t really talked that much about it, just more so this year and doing our assignments,” Hampton said.
“Our focus has been on us. Any time you have to make that trip, it’s a tough trip to make. We’re glad we’re at home for sure.”