For the second week in a row, our first state championship match-up featured two Central Arkansas teams. Representing the 5A was #2 Little Rock Christian Warriors squaring off against the top-ranked Pulaski Academy Bruins. Bryant defeated North Little Rock last week winning their third 7A state title in a row.
Pulaski Academy won the regular season game between the two schools in 2018 56-14, and Little Rock Christian got revenge at state 52-38 to win the school’s first and only championship. The exact scenario happened last season with PA winning their 8th championship and fifth in six years. This year the Bruins won the first contest in week 8 60-28, but history would not repeat itself from the previous two seasons as PA swept the series and won the state title rubber match.
PA got going quick recovering their opening onside kick at the Little Rock Christian 46. On the first offensive play, quarterback Nolan Bruffett hit Jalyn Witcher for a huge gain, but Witcher fumbled around the 14 and LRC recovered taking over at that spot.
The Bruins were able to hold LRC, and Bruffett led an 11- play, 65-yard drive resulting in a touchdown when he hit Cooper White on a 9-yard slant. They converted the 2-point conversion taking an 8-point lead with 5:38 seconds into the game.
Pulaski Academy recovered their second onside kick and got the ball on their own 49. It only took 3 plays to get another score, this time the Bruins went with Charlie Fiser at quarterback and he found Joe Himon all alone in the flat darting 42 yards for the score. The two-point conversion made it 16-0 with 6:42 left in the opening quarter.
The Warriors struck right back relying on stud running back Jayvean Dyer-Jones who took a hand off left, then went the distance for 27 yards. The two-point conversion was no good making the score 16-6 Bruins with 4:41 left in the first quarter.
PA needed seven plays on the ensuing drive to get back into the end zone, capped by Himon from 4 yards out for his second score. The Bruins kicked a rare extra point extending their lead 23-6 late in the 1st.
The Bruins keep the scoring spree going with Fizer for this series ending in a 7-yard touchdown reception to Jalyn Witcher. They elected to go for the extra point again and pushed their lead 30-13 2:11 into the second quarter.
It took LRC 8 plays to retaliate, highlighted by a Corey Platt Jr. SportsCenter top-10 catch. Platt then ran it into the end zone on the following play right before the end of the half.
Soon after, the Bruffett-to-White connection struck again from 23-yards continuing the PA scoring 36-13. They recovered their fourth onside kick (out of 5) of the first half and Himon finished the drive with a 14-yard toss right earning his third touchdown. That made it 43-13.
Trying to get some sort of momentum going, LRC attempted a 4th & 4 but were unsuccessful. PA took over with 3:34 left to play in the half.
The Bruins recovered four onside kicks in the first half that was a huge part of why they were able to score 40+ in the first half.
“We started doing it because it’s a weapon,” Pulaski Academy head coach Kevin Kelley said. “We started doing it a long time ago, this year we had good and bad spots. We’re now 136-5 when we get one. When we get two I believe we are 59-1 up to this point, we net 3 we’re undefeated, and we got 4 today.”
PA wasted no time receiving the ball to start the second half as Bruffett connected with Witcher for a 54-yard score 10 seconds in officially enacting the sportsmanship rule up 50-13. The Bruin offense continued their dominance when Himon scored his 4th touchdown of the day from 14 yards out to make it 57-13 as time was ticking in the 3rd quarter.
The Warriors were down but not completely out putting together a solid 7-play drive that ended with Eli Cooper catching a touchdown between two Bruin defenders from Colin Cooper for 29 yards making it 57-20.
With their starters pulled, PA kept moving the ball on offense and Izarius Woods got in on the action taking a direct snap for a 4-yard touchdown as the Bruins eclipsed the 60 point mark, 64-20.
LRC stopped the bleeding just a bit scoring in the final :37 seconds in what would be the final 64-27.
Himon earned the game’s Most Valuable Player with 203 total yards and 4 touchdowns (3 rushing, 1 receiving).
“This day is very special to me,” Himon said. “Just sending these seniors off with another championship on a great note. It is very special to be apart of this legacy going back-to-back, and knowing we can win another next year I just want to go do that.”
The Warriors finish the year 9-3, Pulaski Academy completes a 13-0 season winning back-to-back state championships, their 8th overall.
Article published by Kyle Sutherland, @k_sutherlandHTP on Twitter