JONESBORO — Nettleton coach Steven Hampton said he challenged his team to be more physical and assertive in the second half of Friday night’s game at Raider Field, especially on the line of scrimmage.
The Raiders responded with a dominant third quarter.
Nettleton scored 27 points in the third quarter to break away from a halftime tie on the way to a 41-21 victory over Brookland in the first varsity football game between the schools. Quarterback Cameron Scarlett ran for two touchdowns and passed for a third in a period that ended with the Raiders leading 34-7.
“I thought our offensive line kind of took control of the game,” Hampton said. “We were able to run the ball really well and those guys did a great job, the offensive line did, of opening holes. Defensively we just went into attack mode a little more, tried to put more pressure on those guys.”
The first half ended in a stalemate after each team scored on its first drive. Brookland (1-4, 0-2 5A-East) missed an opportunity to take the lead late in the first half when Nettleton (2-3, 1-1) held on downs at its 22-yard line.
The 7-7 halftime tie didn’t last long. Raider running back Koby Bradley found an opening in the middle of the line and raced past the Bearcats’ secondary to the end zone on a 53-yard touchdown run just 52 seconds into the third quarter.
Markellin Barber’s interception gave Nettleton its next possession at the Brookland 38. On fourth-and-4, Scarlett lofted a deep throw that Kyle Tolley hauled in for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 7:27 left in the period.
Martiss Buchanan’s diving interception off a deflection put the Raiders on the Bearcats’ 24 and Scarlett scored again, this time on a 12-yard run. Bradley broke a 37-yard run on Nettleton’s next drive and Scarlett finished it with a 1-yard run as the Raiders took a 34-7 lead with two seconds left in the third quarter.
“It really was a game of momentum,” Hampton said. “We had all of it in the third quarter and then toward the end, the momentum shifted back to them for about a three or four-minute swing. We had some guys banged up when we were up 34-7 and we tried to slide some of them out. They got a couple of onside kicks and we had to get them back in the game to make sure we could finish it off.”
Brookland, which lost quarterback Cole Doke to an injury early in the third quarter, gave Hampton reason to worry with a late flurry.
Kaden Matthews made a nifty cutback on an 82-yard touchdown run with 3:25 left in the game. The Bearcats recovered an onside kick and Joseph Wright scored on a 47-yard run just 14 seconds later, pulling the Bearcats within 34-21.
Brookland recovered another onside kick and Matthews broke a 27-yard run to put the Bearcats on the Nettleton 11, but the Raiders held on downs. Nettleton’s O’Rion Pugh raced down the sideline on a 74-yard run and finished the last scoring drive on a 7-yard run with 1:21 remaining.
Matthews finished with 188 yards on 19 carries. Wright, who scored Brookland’s first touchdown on a 1-yard run, added 128 yards on 22 carries.
Scarlett finished with three rushing touchdowns, the first on a 4-yard run in the first quarter.
Nettleton hosts Paragould for homecoming next week, while Brookland travels to Greene County Tech.