For the first time since 2019, the West Ouachita Chiefs have started its football season with a 3-0 record.
And for the third straight week, the Chiefs have physically dominated the second half. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the back-and-forth, fourth-quarter battle between Richwood and West Ouachita Friday night.
After Antonio Ford scored on a 19-yard run with 2:25 remaining in the ballgame, West Ouachita head coach Mike Rainwater held up one finger and sent his kicking unit into the ballgame to try and tie the ballgame, 26-26. Rainwater looked at his other coaches and called timeout.
“We just haven’t been very good at extra points, and so when I looked at my coaches and they looked back at me, I just said, ‘The hell with it. Let’s go for it,’” Rainwater said. “When you have somebody like Cadillac in the backfield, I told him I was going to give it to him all year. And he toted it for us tonight.”
Ford, or “Cadillac” as Rainwater calls him, scored the final touchdown of the game before following it up by bulling his way into the end zone on the two-point try to give the Chiefs a 27-26 lead. Ford led all rushers with 168 rushing yards on 28 carries.
Richwood had one last chance to pull off the upset win, but Jaylin Holland secured the West Ouachita victory with an interception on the Rams' final drive.
The Chiefs trailed 12-0 in the second quarter and 18-6 early into the third quarter before rallying to beat the previously undefeated Rams.
“I can’t say enough about our kids,” Rainwater said. “We went into the locker room and made some adjustments. We didn’t play together in that first half and it showed. Our whole motto in that second half was to play with emotion and play for each other.”
Richwood started the second half similarly to how it began the game. The Rams used four plays to score a touchdown as Andre Williams busted loose on a 56-yard score to make it an 18-6 ballgame. Then on the ensuing defensive series, Jamil Cloman recorded a sack and Traymond Wright secured a tackle for loss to force a Chief punt.
After retaining possession, West Ouachita inserted another tight end in the ballgame, which ended up being standout defender Michael Nolan. The Chiefs marched 81 yards on a 15-play drive that covered nearly six minutes of game time. Peyton Freer punctuated the drive with a fullback dive on a fourth-and-four at the goal line. That made it an 18-13 affair, but it also wore down Richwood’s defense.
“I had a feeling depth would play an issue,” Richwood head coach Marcus Yanez said. “We don’t have the numbers when guys go down. We’ve got guys that have to learn how to push through some stuff, and that’s the great thing about football. It teaches you how to push through adversity when things get tough. I’m proud of the way my guys fought.”
West Ouachita surged ahead when quarterback Sam Ozark connected with Landon Clampit on a 47-yard strike with 6:22 remaining. The Chiefs elected to go for two and did not convert, which made it a 19-18 ballgame in favor of West Ouachita.
Ozark threw three straight incompletions to start the game but West Ouachita’s sophomore quarterback completed his final four passes to finish with 88 yards and two touchdowns.
“Sam is growing up in every game,” Rainwater said. “That’s what I tell him before the game. ‘Go lead your troops.’ He grew up a lot tonight. And Clampit is like a Swiss Army Knife. He’s an even better leader on and off the field. I’m just glad we have (No.) 5 on our team too.”
Richwood regained the upper hand with 4:19 remaining in the contest. Jayleen Butler ripped off a 38-yard return to set up Richwood at West Ouachita’s 36-yard line before Andrew King connected with Ja’mario Robinson on a 35-yard touchdown pass.
West Ouachita drove 53 yards before Ford scored the game-winning two-point conversion.
The contest ended much better than it started for West Ouachita, especially when you consider the first half featured a fumble on the very first play from scrimmage, a shanked punt, a poor quarterback-center exchange on a crucial third down and no pass completions until the last minute of the second quarter.
“We didn’t control the ball,” Rainwater said. “Had a fumble on the very first snap. Any time you go into the ballgame and you’re hyped up and you fumble on the first snap that takes some air out of you.”
The Chiefs were losing, 12-0, when Ozark fell on the fumble in the backfield on a third down deep in the Chiefs’ own territory. After West Ouachita exited the field, the Chiefs punted the ball back over, but a muffed punt injected new life with 2:25 remaining in the half. Seth Dowdy fell on the football at the West Ouachita 48-yard line. Ford ran the football five straight times to get the Chiefs near the red zone.
Facing a third-and-12 with one minute remaining, Ozark completed the Chiefs lone pass of the half to a diving Seth Clampit in the end zone for a 27-yard strike. The Rams took a 12-6 lead into halftime.
Richwood jumped up 6-0 after an eight-yard West Ouachita punt placed the ball at the 34-yard line. After three runs and a facemask penalty placed the football at the nine-yard line, Dantavion Nabors tossed a nine-yard touchdown pass to his big tight end Keshawn Reed for a 6-0 lead. Reed was active in the first half. When he wasn’t catching touchdown passes, Reed was making tackles for losses.
Nabors who entered the contest battling a quad injury turned the quarterback reins over to King in the second quarter, and the Rams passing attack came alive. King connected with Jontavion Dixon on a 51-yard touchdown strike to put the Rams in front, 12-0. King finished the contest with 114 passing yards to go along with 46 rushing yards on 10 attempts. Williams led the Rams with 72 rushing yards on 12 attempts.
“At the end of the day, the only thing I ask of my guys is to give me their best,” Richwood head coach Marcus Yanez said. “Sometimes your best doesn’t always equal wins. That’s just life. That’s the game of football, and that’s what makes it great. Our guys are down right now. First loss of the season, but we’ve got a North Webster team coming in that’s pretty dang good.”
Alan Dean and Nolan each recorded three tackles for loss for the Chiefs in the half.
West Ouachita will hope to create more havoc when the Chiefs put their perfect record on the line against Grant in a road contest Friday.