ENGLAND — It look a while but the Carlisle Bison finally broke out of a funk Friday night.
After falling to Des Arc 20-14 two weeks ago, then falling behind 12-0 to England on Friday, the Bison rallied for 30 consecutive points to beat the Lions 30-12 and secure the second seed from the 2A-6 in the Class 2A state playoffs and a home playoff game this Friday against Marked Tree.
“We just weren’t emotionally into the game and came out flat,” Carlisle coach Brandon Barbaree said. “We weren’t flying to the ball on defense. We weren’t really coming off the ball well offensively. The backs were still running hard. It just didn’t feel like we were in to it.”
England took the opening kickoff and drove 56 yards in eight plays with Lawrence Tatum scoring on a 5-yard run with 8:01 left in the first quarter to lead 6-0.
Carlisle turned the ball over on downs at the England 36. From there, the Lions drove 64 yards in 16 plays with Paul Shirley scoring on a 1-yard run with 8:37 left in the first half to give the Lions a 12-0 lead.
After a long kickoff return by Justice Bryant, the Bison had the ball at the England 43. They drove it to the Enlgand 14 but faced fourth and 10. Bryant worked his way for 13 yards to the England 1. Deron Ricks scored on the next play. He added the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 12-8.
“If we don’t get that there, they have the ball with a 12-0 lead right before the half,” Barbaree said. “It was a huge play; great blocking up front on the play. Just to get that momentum back that we had lost was huge. We were steps away from making plays the whole time. We were a step slow.”
The Bison got the ball to start the second half and drove 72 yards in 12 plays with Bo Weddle scoring on a 3-yard run with 6:42 left in the third quarter. Ricks added the two-point conversion to give the Bison a 16-12 lead.
England then drove the ball to the Carlisle 15 but turned it over on downs. Two plays later, Ricks ran 29 yards to the England 46. After a penalty and a loss on a run, Weddle exploded for a 63-yard touchdown run with 2:40 left in the third quarter to give his team a 22-12 lead.
The Bison then forced England to punt. That led to Carlisle’s final touchdown on a 6-yard run by Weddle with 6:13 left in the game. Bryant added the two-point conversion to set the final score at 30-12.
Barbaree credited his seniors for making the plays in the second half to win.
“We came out in the second half and decided that we weren’t going to go out with no fire and no energy and our defense started flying around,” he said. “Our guys believe in our offense. Even though we were getting stopped some, our guys believe that we’re grinders. We’re just going to keep moving those feet and firing off the football. We started moving bodies. You could see us just start to wear them down.
“Of course, having a 250-pound running back [Ricks] and a 200-pound running back [Weddle] running hard doesn’t hurt. But our guys did work hard up front and eventually just wore England out.”
Barbaree was proud of the way his team finished.
“It wasn’t a great start but we always preach that it’s how you finish,” he said. “They finished well.”
The Bison finished with 417 yards in total offense — all rushing. Ricks led the way with 199 yards on 31 carries. Weddle had 135 yards on 19 carries. Bryant finished with 47 yards on 12 cries.
England finished with 174 yards in total offense —120 passing and 54 rushing.
Carlisle now turns its attention to the playoffs and will host the Marked Tree Indians on Friday night. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Indians are the the fourth seed from the 2A-3 conference. They are are 6-4 overall and 4-3 in league play, finishing behind East Poinsett County, McCrory and Walnut Ridge.
“Our kids have to realize it’s a one-game season,” Barbaree said. “If you lose, you don’t get another game. We’ve got a tough, athletic team coming in here.”
Barbaree said Marked Tree is big and has five or six runners.
“They could give us problems,” he said. “Our guys just have to realize that they have played some tough competition over there in their league. They’ve won some games against some good ball clubs. They’ve lost some games against good ball clubs. It’s going to be a tough game.”
Barbaree said his team is excited for the opportunity to play in the playoffs.
“It’s a long season and you get emotionally up and emotionally down,” he said. “We’ve had some great games this year. We had the one letdown. Our team is definitely made mentally for these games because they are never too emotionally up or down. I think they will be focused, ready and prepared. Our seniors don’t want to out with this being their last home game and want the opportunity to keep on playing.”