HASKELL – In consecutive weeks, the Harmony Grove Cardinals (3-1, 1-0) have held their opponents scoreless after a 34-0 rout of the Ashdown Panthers (2-2) on Friday night to open 7-4A Conference action.
“I can’t stress enough how proud I am of how hard these kids play,” said Head Coach Mike Guthrie. “They play with their hearts, they play with a passion and they played lights-out again (Friday).”
Right out of the gates the Cardinal defense made its presence felt with an interception on only the third play from scrimmage. After going three-and-out on their first drive, the Cardinals were given a fresh set of downs thanks to a roughing the kicker penalty on the Panthers.
Three plays later, sophomore quarterback Hunter Williams found senior wide receiver Ryan Riedmueller for a 24-yard gain. Then five plays later, the ground-and-pound of the Cardinals paid off as junior Canyon Clifton scored from 2 yards out.
On the third play from scrimmage on Ashdown’s subsequent drive, the Cardinals would intercept sophomore quarterback Alex Keilbach again, his second of three interceptions, with his third coming on the final play of the first quarter.
However, the Cardinal offense would struggle to capitalize and would have to lean on their defense as they fumbled twice in consecutive drives to start the second half.
“Defense kept us in the game when the offense struggled early,” said Guthrie. “Our offense picked it up, but we couldn’t have done it without our defense stepping up early.”
After a three-and-out by the Panthers, the Cardinal offense would get the ball back with just under a minute to go before half. That’s when Williams would find senior wideouts Connor Burrow and Hayden Hilson on back to back 20-plus yard completions. Hilson’s catch would be for a 26-yard touchdown with only seconds left on the clock.
After a missed extra point, the Cardinals would take a 13-0 lead into half.
The Cardinals would come out with a vengeance in the second half as sophomore Cameron Palmer would rush it in for a score to put Harmony Grove up 19-0. After Williams’ successful rush for the 2-pt conversion, the Cardinals were firmly in control.
Williams would find the end zone again two drives later, extending the lead to 28 with three minutes left in the third. Both defenses would hold steady until midway through the fourth quarter when senior running back Jayce Harrison would score from 2 yards out, giving us the final score of the game.
“We made a few adjustments coming out of halftime,” said Guthrie. “We put in some different blocking schemes to open up the run, but credit to the kids for coming out and executing.”
The win marks the third straight victory for the Cardinals. Next week they take their streak on the road to face the Malvern Leopards (1-3), which have now lost three straight games after a 21-7 defeat to Bauxite at The Pit.