AMITY— The Harmony Grove Cardinals (1-0) looked to have stolen a few pages of the late great Frank Broyles’ playbook on Friday, using 57 running plays to wallop Centerpoint on the road 38-20 to open the season.
“Three yards and a cloud of dust” was coined by the former Razorback head coach and in Week Zero, the Cardinals eclipsed that, collecting better than five yards per carry in the win.
“We have been preaching to our kids about mindset change, going from the spread to a T,” said first-year Head Coach Mike Guthrie. “They have done a good job of buying in. They are playing with intensity. I was very pleased with how our backs ran. But I was extremely pleased with our ball get off by our offensive line.”
Now running the Diamond-T, after lining up in the spread the past several years, Harmony Grove ran its offense almost flawlessly, using eight different ball carriers in the process.
“We told them from day one that we may start the game with a set three guys, but we are going to roll a minimum of six guys in that backfield,” Guthrie said. “We have got to keep people fresh because most of those guys are turning around and playing defense, too.
“We tell them, ‘If you will hit that line of scrimmage with everything you have, then you are going to play.’ That is what this offense is designed to do. Hit quick. We are trying to hit it as quick as we can get it.”
The Cardinals opened the game with a 57-yard scoring drive, using nine running snaps, capped with a 1-yard scamper from Willie Newton. A botched handle on the extra-point try would stall the score at 6-0 Harmony Grove.
The Cardinals would also use two offsides penalties to move the ball on the opening drive by way of changing up the snap count. Harmony Grove would cause the Knights to jump early seven times in the game.
“A lot of teams that you play, to stop this offense, they are going to try and bring as much pressure as they can,” Guthrie said. “To slow them down, you have multiple snap counts. I am very proud of our kids. They held their water. We went on 1. Went on 3 and kept them (the Knights) guessing.”
Both teams would exchange respective turnovers-on-down before the Knights cut into the lead of Harmony Grove with a 1-yard push from quarterback Owen Bryant. The 2-point try was no good as the game remained tied at 6-6 with 11:07 to tick in the first half.
Harmony Grove, though, would take over and never look back, going 67 yards on 15 carries with senior Jake Brooks powering in from five yards away. A successful 2-point attempt from quarterback Logan Whitley would make it 14-6 Cardinals with 3:32 to play in the half.
Settling down a bit, Centerpoint would put together a 12-play scoring series of its own, pulling within 14-12 on a three-yard touchdown run from Blake Crawford with under a minute to roll until halftime.
Despite the few seconds remaining in the second quarter, Harmony Grove would take advantage of what the defense was allowing, sending two guys streaking up the middle of the field. A perfect pass from Whitley, the Cardinals’ only throw of the game, would find the out-stretched arms of Logan Hubbard for a 59-yard score and a momentum boost heading into the locker room.
Harmony Grove would lead 22-12 at the break.
“At that point it was still a close game,” Guthrie said. “We thought we might be able to steal us one. Their safeties were about six yards off the line of scrimmage and the corners were a yard of on the outside. We thought we should take the shot.
“We faked the toss and they come flying up. The kids happen to be open.”
After forcing the game’s first punt to start the third quarter, Harmony Grove would keep to what was working, trucking 80 yards in 14 plays as running back James Webb crossed the goal line for his first career touchdown and a 30-12 lead after another converted 2-point try and 2:54 left in the quarter.
Webb was a big part of moving the ball early in the drive, going for back-to-back 13-yard gains. Brooks, too, would tally a 13-yard carry during the series.
With its back against the wall, Centerpoint stopped the bleeding for a moment as Daniel Forsythe ran away from Cardinal defenders, trucking for a 24-yard TD with 46 second left in the quarter. Harmony Grove still led 30-20
A turnover-on-downs showing and a forced punt would set Harmony Grove up for its final scoring drive of the game as Newton stole the spotlight. Starting at their own 33, the Cardinals would be in the end zone seven plays later as Newton sprinted for a 24-yard score, his second TD of the night.
Brooks would add the 2-point conversion for a 38-20 lead, the eventual final score.
Harmony Grove’s defense capped its night with a forced fumble and recovery on the Knights second play of their series.
The win marks the second straight win over the Knights.
“You come in and put a system in and kids are buying in, but they really don’t know until they get out here and see it and experience it,” Guthrie said. “Tonight, we got to experience it. We were lucky that it was in a very positive way and now it helps them buy in even more.”
Newton would lead Harmony Grove with 16 carries for 115 yards and two scores. Brooks followed suit, going for 75 yards and a score on 14 carries.
Harmony Grove will be off next week, retaking the field Sept. 7 at home against Gurdon.
Opening kick is set for 7 p.m. at Sykes Stadium.