The Ouachita Reapers have had trouble jumpstarting their newly founded semi-pro football team. The Reapers were created in 2019 with just a handful of players which led to a rough first year. In 2020 their season was canceled due to the COVID pandemic. The Reapers refused to die though and kicked off their first home game of the 2021 season on Saturday, March 13th with a bang. The Reapers were scheduled to play an away game against Arkansas Xtra, but fate turned in the Reaper’s favor. With little time to prep the field or set up personnel for the game, the Reapers made do and it was game on. Ouachita was a heavy underdog in this matchup to an Arkansas Xtra team that has been a perineal powerhouse for years in the league.
The Reapers defense went right at Xtra in an extra aggressive manner shutting down Xtras highly touted offense. Heavy pressure by the Reaper’s “Defensive DEADline” stunned Arkansas and gave Ouachita’s offense an opportunity to drive the field. The Reapers weren’t able to punch one in to the end zone at the end of the first quarter, but neither could Xtra as the first quarter closed with a 0-0 score.
With the Xtra on their heels, the Purple and Black offensive attack kicked in. The Reapers sucked Arkansas’s defense in with a few power runs by running back Cleo Floyd which opened up quick out routes for Ouachita’s wide receivers. Once quarterback, Alex Cantrell, was able to spot the gaps, the air show began. Cantrell zipped passes to Chayse Reyna, Terrance Floyd, Hayden Gray, and Abraham Hernandez to set up the Reapers for their first touchdown scored by Hernandez. Arkansas Xtra wasn’t going to just lay down though as the Xtra punched their ticket to the scoreboard leading 14-6 going into the half.
The second half was a battleground of head bashing and creative play calling. Neither team gave an inch of ground but put in a mile of effort. The Reapers made it inside the ten-yard line on a few occasions, but couldn’t find the right formula to push one in for a score. Defensively, the Reaper’s kept Arkansas on their side of the field with quite the defensive performance. Both teams traded turnovers with interceptions and fumbles, but again, neither could capitalize and the third quarter ended again 14-6 with Xtra staying on top.
Ouachita scored again in the fourth quarter with Cantrell crossing the Reapers goal line with an amazing catch for the Reapers while Gray picked up the 2-point conversion setting the score to 14-14. As the clock ticked down late in the fourth quarter, it was becoming apparent to everyone that this game was far from over just yet. It was going into OVERTIME! The Reapers wound up with the ball first and made a short drive downfield before turning the ball over. Arkansas Xtra capitalized on the turnover and quickly scored to end the Reaper’s upset hope with a 20-14 score.
Ouachita Reaper, Bryson Livingston started his football career during Little League in Roland Ok. When he was in high school, he tore his ACL and after having surgery on it two years ago plus a year off for recovery, Livingston is making a comeback. One reason Bryson decided to join the Reapers was that “I was having Game Day Anxiety! Anyone that has a love for this game or any other sport knows what it’s like to have it. Also, I was missing a brotherhood. The game of football is a life experience that I hope the next generation can adapt to and keep it going.”
Playing on the special teams, Livingston was slightly nervous about how his knee was going to hold up. “But once I got on the field I was telling myself that I’m at work and it’s time to get the job done. I play wherever coach wants me. For our next game against the Bolts, I don’t know much about them. I’m just going to go into the match with the mindset of whatever happens will happen and to just stay humble. Win or Lose, we are there to have fun!”
Cornerback/Wide Reciever, Cleo Floyd has been playing football his whole life although he didn’t start playing organized football until the 9th grade where he attended Hot Springs High School. “I just love to play football and after talking to a couple of teammates, I knew that I wanted to be apart of the Reapers. I feel like our first home game against Xtra went great. We took a loss, but I feel that we made a statement that we won’t be the team that stays on the ground when we’re down! We gave it our all the whole game and held a team (that was predicted to beat us 42-0) to just 20 points and taking them to overtime. All in all, I’m pretty confident in my teammates and I know that we will bring this same energy against the Arkansas Boltz”
And former Bearcat, Ethan Obar plays defensive end and offensive tackle for the Reapers. “I have been playing football since the 3rd grade. I played at Booneville High School and a year at Arkansas Tech. The reason I joined the Reapers is that I really missed football and teammate, Wesley Schuller, contacted me looking for a big lineman and I couldn’t refuse. In our home opener, I feel like we should’ve won but overall we played great as a team. We were slated to be the underdogs but took the game into overtime. When it comes to our next battle, the Boltz is a great team. They have a great history of being at the top and it’s going to take us coming out like we did last weekend to win. But I feel like we can overcome anything!”
Ouachita did lose the game, but they also sent a message via the world’s largest bullhorn to the rest of the league. That message was that the Reapers will not die that easily. The Reapers will be better prepared for their next game as they will travel to square off against the Arkansas Boltz on March 27th. The Reaper’s next home game will be on April 3rd against the Jonesboro Gladiators. With the Jonesboro game scheduled and not an impromptu schedule change, Ouachita will be fully staffed with the field and personnel set and the players will definitely be ready to Reap.