J’Kardi Witcher Helps Put Texas High Back On Top Of Rivalry With Arkansas High
TEXARKANA, Ark. -- It wasn't easy and it definitely wasn't pretty, but Texas High got back on top of its rivalry with Texarkana (Ark.) Arkansas High on Friday with a 28-14 win.
Tigers senior running back J'Kardi Witcher added a cornerstone piece to his legacy in the process. He scored twice on 25 carries for 202 yards and added a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown for good measure.
His scores single handedly erased the bad taste of last year's overtime loss.
"We don't have to go through everyone talking about all that stuff anymore," Witcher said. "We won and we're taking our act back home. It feels great. Last year, we lost. This year, the coaches prepared us and we're ready to go home."
Home is a whopping three miles away.
It felt like hundreds of miles away.
Things change immediately across what seems like just an ordinary four-lane city street called State Line Avenue.
Texarkana, Ark., is all about the Razorbacks. The mascot of the University of Arkansas and of Arkansas High School itself.
The Texas municipality and Arkansas' counterpart act like a single city most of the time, but there certainly are territory inspired battles to prevent one side of the border from holding too much power.
Razorback Stadium was a place for the two sides to compete without seeming too competitive. The stands were full before kickoff.
"Last year kind of woke us up a little bit and hurt our feelings," Texas High head coach Barry Norton said. "It left a bad taste in our palate for a little while. It was important to get the (trophy) back to our side of town where it belongs. I thought these kids played really hard. I thought Todd Ledford's kids played really hard and gave great effort. We just made more plays."
The Tigers (2-0) elevated their record against Arkansas High to 48-18-7 since 1947. Norton's personal record within the series is 14-2-1.
Texas High has not been beaten in 13 of the 14 most recent meetings. Aside from last year's loss, the two teams tied in 2007 because Arkansas rules don't allow for overtime in non-district games.
A lack of overtime was a troubling thought after the first 24 minutes. Arkansas High (0-1) and the Tigers traded seven possessions before Witcher found the end zone for the first time late in the first quarter on a 3-yard run set up by quarterback Cade Pearson's 22-yard throw to Eric Sutton.
Norton's team lost its first two possessions on turnovers and then turned the ball over on downs after a bad snap on a punt attempt. Arkansas High surrendered the opening possession over on downs, missed a field goal, punted and then fumbled before the evening's first touchdown.
It was more of the same after Witcher's run up the middle.
Arkansas High failed to convert a fourth down a second time and punted twice more. Texas High punted, turned the ball over on downs and punted again before the opening act ended.
Witcher took the second half kick 98 yards to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead. A clock error indicated the run took all of three seconds.
The runner found the end zone for the third and final time two possessions later following Quan Hampton's 37-yard punt return to the Arkansas High 13-yard line.
Arkansas High's offense showed signs of life when it switched out its starting quarterback with the more mobile Keaundre Banks late in the third quarter. He drove his team 63 yards in 11 plays and capped the sequence with a 20-yard scoring throw to Ladreliaun Taylor with 11:29 to play.
But running back Markese Martin answered the score 17 seconds later with an 82-yard touchdown run of his own on Texas High's next play from scrimmage for a 28-7 lead.
Chaz Davis ended Arkansas High's next threat with a pick at the 10-yard line and returned it 50 yards.
Arkansas High closed scoring with Randall Green's one-foot dive. Jaylen Rhone recovered its onside kick attempt at the 5:04 mark.
"What we did do was we played great defense," Norton said after expressing disappointment with the turnovers and 12 penalties for 114 yards. "They never had a chance to get the ball going and, luckily, after we turned them back twice, we were able to get the ball moving and give our defense some rest. We ran the ball really well and I thought we were physical on both sides."
Texas High will enjoy its open date this week. It closes non-district play at Kilgore on Sept. 18.
Arkansas High will continue on the Texas warpath. It travels to Liberty-Eylau on Friday and stays on the road for a meeting with Marshall the following week.
"In the locker room, I told the guys it's our senior year and we'd either win or we'd lose," Witcher said. "They came out and played. And we beat them."
Texas High 28, Texarkana (Ark.) Arkansas High 14
At Razorback Stadium, Texarkana, Ark.
Texas High 7 0 14 7 -- 28
Arkansas High 0 0 0 14 -- 14
THS--J'Kardi Witcher 3 run (Ethan Montez kick), 1:21
THS--Witcher 98 kickoff return (Montez kick), 11:57
THS-- Witcher 2 run (Montez kick), 2:00
AHS--Ladreliaun Taylor 20 pass from Keaundre Banks (Tyler Braswell kick), 11:29
THS--Markese Martin 82 run (Montez kick), 11:12
AHS--Randall Green 1 run (Braswell kick), 5:05
First Downs 20 14
Total Yards 378 261
Rushes-Yards 45-297 34-133
Passing Yards 81 128
Comp.-Att.-Int. 6-16-1 13-26-1
Punts-Avg. 3-41.0 4-42.8
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 12-114 7-50
RUSHING--Texas High, J'Kardi Witcher 25-202, Markese Martin 12-93, Kyle Choate 1-3, Cade Pearson 7-(-1). Arkansas High, Kaviron Oliver 14-84, Keaundre Banks 7-37, Randall Green 4-7, Allen Sprayberry 6-(-3), Deandre Jackson 3-(-3).
PASSING--Texas High, Pearson 6-16-1--81. Arkansas High, Sprayberry 12-23-0--108, Banks 1-3-1--20.
RECEIVING--Texas High, Eric Sutton 1-22, Martin 1-19, Quan Hampton 1-17, Kip Williams 1-9, Jaylen Rhone 1-8, Trevailance Hunt 1-6. Arkansas High, Sylvester Henderson 4-91, Ladreliaun Taylor 2-18, Kushaiah Jones 5-12, Timothy Stuckey 1-8, Kaviron Oliver 2-(-1).