JONESBORO — A holding penalty that nullified a go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter was only a temporary obstacle Friday night for Nettleton.
The Raiders went back to the same pass-catch combination twice in the next three plays, first to get out of a long-yardage situation and then to take the lead on the way to a hard-fought 35-28 victory over Pocahontas at Raider Field.
Kenwarren McShan made an over-the-shoulder catch of Cameron Scarlett’s 28-yard touchdown pass to snap a 21-all tie with 9:25 left in the game. The go-ahead score came three plays after what would have been a 33-yard connection between the two was wiped out by a flag.
McShan’s 19-yard reception gave the Raiders a first down, and he scored two plays later.
“Penalties are a part of it. We can’t get our head down,” Nettleton coach Steven Hampton said. “We were still on the plus side of the field, just come back and somebody make a play. We came back to Kenwarren maybe the next play or the next couple of plays. He runs a hitch route and makes a guy miss, gets us a first down.”
Nettleton (3-0) extended its lead to 14 points when Scarlett bulled his way into the end zone on a 6-yard run with 2:14 remaining. Pocahontas (2-1) closed within a touchdown again when quarterback Connor Baker scored on a 2-yard run with 1:16 remaining, but Nettleton’s Halon Willie recovered an onside kick and the Raiders ran out the clock.
Scarlett ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more, both to McShan. He led the Raiders in rushing with 191 yards on 21 carries and also completed 8-of-15 passes for 110 yards.
“I think everybody knows about his running ability, but he can throw the football,” Hampton said of Scarlett, Nettleton’s all-state quarterback. “When you stack (the defense) in there, he can make you pay.”
Koby Bradley added 80 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries for the Raiders. McShan caught four passes for 65 yards.
Baker, who also played linebacker, was on the field most of the night. He scored all four touchdowns for the Redskins while rushing for 240 yards on 31 carries. He was also 3-of-7 passing for 38 yards and made 7.5 tackles on defense.
“He’s a tough kid. That’s what I told him at the end,” Hampton said. “I don’t have the words to compliment him enough as far as what kind of competitor he is. It’s obvious.”
Baker scored on runs of 18 and 7 yards in a first half that ended with the teams tied at 14.
Scarlett scored Nettleton’s first touchdown on an 8-yard run with 10:07 left in the first half. With the Raiders trailing 14-6, Scarlett found McShan on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds left in the second quarter, then ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game.
“It was huge to get us evened back up, to get the two-point conversion to get it evened up just so we could go back in feeling good,” Hampton said. “We felt like we had taken a really good shot from them and we came out of it even. We felt like we hadn’t played our best football and if we could do that, we’d have a chance in the second half.”
The Raiders took their first lead on their second possession of the second half. Bradley scored on a 6-yard run with 6:02 left in the third quarter to give Nettleton a 21-14 lead after the extra point.
Pocahontas came back with a touchdown drive of its own, Baker scoring on an 11-yard run with 3:07 left in the third quarter. The teams traded punts before Nettleton drove 57 yards to take the lead for good on Scarlett’s second touchdown pass of the game to McShan.
Baker drove Pocahontas to a first down at the Nettleton 35 with 6:12 remaining in the game, but penalties backed up the Redskins and they wound up punting from their own 33.
Nettleton drove 49 yards for a 35-21 lead. Scarlett broke a 27-yard run to Pocahontas’ 6-yard line and covered the remaining yardage on the next play.
The Redskins drove 47 yards for the game’s final touchdown. Baker completed a 16-yard pass to Harrison Carter to put Pocahontas inside the 5-yard line, then scored on a quarterback draw.
Nettleton opens 5A-East conference play at home next week against Batesville. Pocahontas travels to Rivercrest to start its 4A-3 conference schedule.