After three straight wins in the state playoffs at home, some fans wondered if Charleston could take their dominant play on the road and beat a good Rison football program that has won eight state titles in its program’s history. The Charleston defense had been stellar throughout the playoffs, but, the Tigers were about to face a very physical and talented rushing attack from legendary Rison Coach Clay Totty. And on a perfect evening weather-wise in south Arkansas, it didn’t take long for the questions to be answered.
After stopping the Wildcats on their first offensive possession, it was clear that the defensive line and linebacker corps for Charleston were there to play. The Tigers forced a Rison punt, and Charleston would take possession of the football for the first time.
On the first Charleston snap, senior running back Brevyn Ketter took the handoff from Brandon Scott and raced the distance to the end zone to score a touchdown for Charleston. The point after touchdown attempt was blocked, but the Tigers led 6-0 early, and never looked back. The stop on defense and the lightning strike score on the first Charleston offensive play seemingly put Rison in shock, and the Tigers went on to win the state semifinal game, 27-0.
The Tigers will now advance to the Class 3A state championship next Saturday, December 10, 6:30 p.m., at War Memorial Stadium. Charleston will face the Booneville Bearcats who also won their state semifinal game at Melbourne on Friday night by the score of 41-36. The rematch from their regular season game in October will be for a state championship and will match the numbers one and three ranked teams in Class 3A according to Max Preps. The top-ranked Tigers will face a Booneville team that will be at full-strength on Saturday. The Bearcats had several players and starters, including their record-breaking running back, Dax Goff, unavailable in their first meeting. Boneville and Charleston have clearly been the best two teams in 3A this season, and the rematch will be a fan’s dream, featuring the best two teams competing for the state title.
Rison is a team that likes to run the football, pounding defenses into submission, and striking with the occasional pass when the defense sells out to stop the run. As tough as the Wildcats’ rushing attack can be, they are not built to score quickly or to come from behind. Ketter’s touchdown run early forced Rison to play catch-up all night against a very tough Charleston defense. The Wildcats did have two possessions inside the red zone, but on both possessions, Rison would not be able to score due to turnovers. The Wildcats’ running backs were capable of exploding for big plays, and at times they seemed like they were on the verge of breaking a run from scrimmage for a long gain, but, they never did. Charleston was physical on the offensive and defensive lines, and the Tigers’ secondary was able to stop the pass all night.
Charleston took a 12-0 halftime lead into the locker room with possession of the ball to start the second half. The Tigers began to put the game away when the Charleston offense took their first possession of the third quarter and marched down the field, overcoming a couple of controversial calls and penalties against them, and scoring a touchdown to extend their lead.
As the game clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, a focused Charleston head coach, Ricky May, began to allow himself to smile with approximately four minutes remaining and the Tigers up by 27 points. In fact, in one experience that this reporter will never forget, we glanced at each other on the sideline with about four minutes, each hesitating to smile, and then broke out into big smiles and a congratulatory hug. Coach May has done a very good job as the Tigers coach since his arrival in 2019, and he always gives all of the credit for the program’s success to his players. He is truly a class act.
Watch for photos from this game next week on Facebook at Charleston Tigers Sports. And yes, RNN Sports will be on the field next Saturday in Little Rock to bring you coverage of the Tigers state championship game.
Congratulations to the Charleston Tigers, coaches, fans, and the community of Charleston on the Tigers’ appearance next week in the state championship game. This is a very special team, and the many seniors on this roster will end their high school careers at War Memorial on Saturday. They deserve a huge turnout by the fans and the community to see them compete for a state title.
See you Saturday at War Memorial Stadium!