By Robert Bradford
North Jefferson News
HAYDEN — It was 7-2 Arab and 2-7 Hayden going at it in the regular season finale Friday. But the way the first half went, it looked more like those records were reversed.
Form returned as the game wore on, though, and the Arabian Knights came back to score a 27-20 victory over the Wildcats.
The familiar Wildcat combo of Corey Ward to Luke Wall combo struck for 28 yards and a score midway through the first quarter. Dylan Putnam's point after gave the Cats a 7-0 lead midway of the first quarter.
Later in the period, defensive back Clay Hogeland intercepted a Kinghts pass and returned it to the Cats 28 yard line. It was the only turnover for the guests all night, but it spoiled Arab's first scoring threat.
Running back Parker Sims, who finished the night with 108 yards on 10 carries, scored from 33 yards out with 1:44 remaining in the first quarter.
Arab finally got on the board on their next drive when Jason Willard hit a 37-yard field goal with 8:55 to go in the first half.
Hayden committed their only turnover on the night at the Cats 26 yard line with just over a minute left in the first half. But the Wildcat defense was up to the task and forced an Arab field goal attempt as time expired. Willard was true on the 29-yard attempt to cut the lead to 14-6 at half time.
Knights starting quarterback Will Morgan was injured in the first half and unable to return in the second.
Hayden was forced to punt on their first possession of the second half, and on the subsequent drive running back Ryne Rush, who ended the night with 90 yards on 23 carries, scored from 18 yards out. Arab tried the two point conversion but Hayden defense stopped the Knights, but the Hayden lead was cut to 14-12 with 9:57 remaining in the third quarter.
Neither team would threaten again until the fourth quarter. Rush would score from 1 yard out with 8:49 left to play to give the Knights the lead. Will Ashley took the ball in for the two-point conversion to up the margin to 20-14.
Hayden would come back and tie the game on a 31-yard run by Sims with 5:24 to play. Putnam's point-after missed.
But Arab drove 65 yards in the remaining five minutes, and scored on a 2-yard run by Rush with only seven seconds on the clock.
The loss drops Hayden to 2-8, while the win improves Arab to 8-2. The Knights will travel to Cullman to take on the Bearcats in the first round of the class 5A playoffs.
Sims led all rushers with 108 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns, plus two pass reception for 32 yards. Wall had 98 yards on six catches and a touchdown for the Wildcats.