MENA - The Arkadelphia freshman Badgers are still undefeated after disposing of the Mena junior Bearcats on Thursday night 31-28 in their hardest fought game of the season so far.
Arkadelphia quarterback Braeden Thomas accounted for 282 yards rushing and four touchdowns, he threw for 55 yards and had two kickoff returns for 61 yards all to lead the Badgers attack. Arkadelphia is 7-0 overall and will play at home this Thursday against the Ashdown junior Panthers.
“I was very impressed with Mena,” Arkadelphia freshman head football coach Trent Smith said. “They were as physical of a team as we have seen all season. But our kids kept hitting back. We were down by nine points for several possessions, but the defense came through with some big stops and our offense took over and got the lead back.”
Staton Whitten had a 14-yard return to start the game for Arkadelphia. Thomas threw to Sammy Hawthorne for an 18-yard gain. Thomas ran for 13 yards and followed it up with a 22-yard touchdown run for a 6-0 lead.
Mena came back and scored on a 19-yard run five plays later and converted its 2-point conversion to go ahead 8-6. When the Badgers got the ball back, Thomas ran for 23 yards, but two plays later he was intercepted on third down.
Mena ran four plays from its own 43 yard line, but Malcom Turner intercepted a Bearcat pass. Thomas passed to Ian Manning for a 15-yard gain and then Thomas took off for a 65-yard touchdown run. Jonathan Manrique made the extra point kick for a 13-8 lead.
Mean found the end zone on an 8-yard run to cap off an eight play drive from midfield. The Bearcats converted the 2-point conversion for a 16-13 advantage. Cole Turner returned the ensuing kickoff for Arkadelphia and made it to the 37 yard line. Thomas ran for 14 yards and he threw to Logan Becker for a 9-yard first down, but two plays later the Badgers fumbled the ball over to Mena.
The Bearcats broke free for a 45-yard run and two plays later scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 22-13 before the first half ended.
Arkadelphia returned the kickoff to the Mena 38 by Thomas and he passed to Manning for a 15-yard gain. From there, Ernest Young scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to cut the Bearcats lead to 22-19 just before halftime.
Mena fumbled the opening second half kick and Arkadelphia recovered. Four plays later, the Badgers turned the ball over on downs. Mena ran three plays and Whitten intercepted a pass attempt to get the ball back for Arkadelphia.
Thomas took off for 20-yard on first down and followed it with a 40-yard touchdown run to make it 25-22.
After both teams punted, Mena had the ball at the Arkadelphia 16, but a holding penalty and a fourth down incompletion ended a potential scoring threat. Arkadelphia took over the ball and six plays later, Thomas got a block from Eli Perrin that sprang him for a 45-yard touchdown run to make it a 31-22 Badgers lead.
After the kickoff, Mena’s quarterback was sacked on first down, but completed a 15-yard pass and a 27-yard pass to end up scoring on a 3-yard run with less than two minutes to play in the game. The Bearcats missed its conversion and trailed 31-28.
Mena tried an onsides kick, but Manning recovered the ball for Arkadelphia and three plays later the clock ran out.
Mena rushed 33 times for 158 yards and completed three of nine passes for 42 yards for a total of 221 yards. Arkadelphia had 27 rushing plays for 286 yards. Thomas was five of 10 passing for 55 yards for 337 yards.
The Badgers and the Bearcats tied 6-6 in the eighth grade game. Arkadelphia’s only score came on a Payton Byrd pass to Kyler Pfifer.

Junior high football roundup
JESSIEVILLE - The Gurdon Junior Go-Devils fell 12-6 on Thursday night against the Jessieville junior  Lions in Jessieville.
HORATIO - The Bismarck junior Lions lost 12-6 to Horatio in overtime last Thursday night in Horatio.
Bismarck’s only score came on a 15-yard run from Ryan Shuffield.