JONESBORO — Westside was ready to pounce on Blytheville’s mistakes last week.
The Warriors scored twice on turnovers while keeping the Chickasaws off the scoreboard in a 27-0 victory. Westside posted its first shutout since 2019 while earning its first victory of the season. Coach Bobby Engle said the victory was a badly needed boost for the Warriors, who had lost 14-12 to Brookland and 20-17 to Trumann in double overtime.
“That was huge, getting a win like that, especially in conference play and just for confidence in general,” Engle said. “We played three close games coming out; I don’t think Greene County Tech was a complete blowout or anything like that, and then we lose by two to Brookland and have that kind of fiasco at Trumann. I think we’re playing well. I think offensively we have to put up a little better stats, but defensively we’re playing some really good football.”
The Warriors (1-3, 1-1 conference) face another defensive test tonight as they visit defending 4A-3 champion Rivercrest (3-1, 2-0). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Westside was opportunistic from the start against Blytheville, scoring its first touchdown as Gus Yearta recovered a fumble in the end zone when the Chickasaws were in punt formation. Cameron Hedger later returned an interception for a touchdown.
Engle praised his team’s effort defensively.
“We had a lot of guys around the football all night. We tried to capitalize on their mistakes, a fumbled punt in the end zone that we recovered for the first score and then just two or three more fumbles,” Engle said. “They were putting it on the ground and luckily for us, we had a guy around the football at all times.”
Hedger, Westside’s offensive leader, also ran for two touchdowns and 126 yards on 23 carries. He has 613 yards and seven touchdowns rushing, plus two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Outside linebacker Connor Crain also had an interception and a fumble recovery for the Warriors, drawing praise from Engle along with inside linebackers Darvin Fowler and Edward Wilson, defensive tackles J.T. McGuire and Spencer Long, cornerbacks Gavin and Ashton Rasdon, and safety Montana Neely.
“We’re putting pressure on people and trying to cause some turnovers,” Engle said. “Defensively we’re where we need to be.”
Rivercrest, which was last year’s 4A state runner-up, opened the season with a 25-19 loss at Valley View. The Colts defeated Brookland 31-26 in their second non-conference game, then opened league play with victories over Pocahontas (61-41) and Cave City (16-13).
“Rivercrest is Rivercrest, they’ve always got athletes on both sides of the football,” Engle said. “We have to contain their speed, try to keep them in between the tackles and not let them outside. That’s easier said than done for sure.”
Rivercrest senior quarterback Mike Sharp has completed 65 percent of his passes for 961 yards and eight touchdowns, with four interceptions. Sophomore Michael Rainer is the Colts’ top receiver with 26 receptions for 445 yards and five touchdowns.
Senior Tray Jones leads the Colts’ ground game with 240 yards and five touchdowns. Jones is also a key defensive player at linebacker with 32 tackles. Senior end Brandyn Brownlee has 10 tackles for loss, including five sacks.
“As good as they were last year, I think they were still pretty young. I knew they had a lot of those guys coming back for this year,” Engle said. “You can’t argue with Coach (Johnny) Fleming’s success over there. He’s a great coach. He coaches those guys up well. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his program. They’re always going to be toward the top of the conference.”