It’s Showtime! Cards, Miners set for Week 6 Showdown

Bauxite senior quarterback Seth McDowell run for extra yardage during a game earlier this season. McDowell and fellow senior Dawson Dabbs have combined for 931 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns this year. GREG DAVIS/Special to The Saline CourierHarmony Grove’s Cayden Childers, 54, and Mark Dixon, 32, chase down Malvern quarterback Parker Freer in last week’s 30-7 victory over the Leopards. This week, Harmony Grove plays host to 7-4A rival Bauxite in the third annual Saline River Showdown. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. GREG DAVIS/Special to The Saline Courier

Friday night’s game between Harmony Grove (4-1, 2-0) and Bauxite (5-0, 2-0) has been marked on the schedule of both squads for some time now.
With the Cardinals winning the first two matches of the Saline River Showdown, Bauxite Head Coach Daryl Patton and company are looking to leave their mark on what is now a 7-4A Conference rivalry with Harmony Grove moving up in class this season.
“Coach (Mike) Guthrie and Harmony Grove have done a good job,” Patton said. “Those kids play extremely hard and are very disciplined. They do a great job of running their offense and they tackle really well on defense. Early pick for Coach of the Year, I think Coach Guthrie has to be right up there with them.
“With everybody they lost and new coaching staff, at the start of the year the expectations were probably pretty low — especially going from 3A to 4A. They have really performed well and we have our hands full Friday night.”
Bauxite Offensive Line Coach Paul Calley led the Cardinals past the Miners the previous two matches before leaving Harmony Grove for the Miners in the offseason.
Through five games, Harmony Grove’s offense is averaging 32 points per contest while its defense is allowing 16 per during that time.
“Defensively, (Week 5 vs. Malvern) I felt like our defensive staff put together a good game plan,” Guthrie said. “Most of all, our kids executed and we came in at halftime and made some adjustments. They have done a really good job of adjusting and they are coming out and executing those things.”
The Cardinals are coming off a dominating performance over Malvern, winning 30-7 while Bauxite rolls into Week 6 having blown past Ashdown a week prior.
Offensively, Harmony Grove is led by a few quick running backs with senior Jake Brooks in front with 434 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He also has two 100-plus yard games.
Following the hard-hitting senior is junior back Willie Newton, who has come on strong in 2018, rushing for 323 yards and four scores on 69 touches.
Guthrie and company also have four other backs taking snaps who have rushed for at least 140 yards this season.
Much like the Cardinals, Bauxite is a predominately running squad as well, using speed and athleticism to down its opponents thus far.
Running wild out of the backfield for the Miners are quarterback Seth McDowell and running back Dawson Dabbs, both seniors.
“McDowell has done a good job running the ball and protecting the ball and running physical,” Patton said. “Dawson is having a good year, but he still hasn’t had that big game, yet. It could come at any time. He is a very focused young man and is hard to tackle with great speed.”
The two are a 1-2 punch for Patton in the backfield, combining for 931 yards and 14 TDs so far this season.
Bauxite is also throwing the ball more efficiently than it did a year ago, having completed 23 of 45 pass attempts for 410 yards and seven scores in 2018.
“(The Miners) are a very, very good football team and it is going to be a heck of a challenge for us,” Guthrie said. “Our kids understand that in this conference each week is a huge challenge. We have been working hard this week trying to prepare.”
While the back half of Bauxite’s schedule could prove to be the toughest this season, Patton said his team is focused on one thing — Harmony Grove.
“I am proud of our kids,” Patton said. “They are very, very mature and they have been through the battles. They don’t look ahead or get too excited. They just take it one game at a time. We don’t talk about the back half of our schedule or who were are battling next week. All we talk about is Harmony Grove.
“It is a rivalry game and a trophy game. There are a lot of things that can come out of a victory Friday night and we know it is going to be a war for four quarters. They are not going to give up and we are not going to give up. Our kids, for two years, have experienced the wrong side of the scoreboard against these guys. We have had a great week of practice and they are focused. They know that if Harmony Grove beats us it is because they earned it.”
As for the crowd expected to fill Sykes Stadium in Haskell on Friday, both coaches said the atmosphere will be exciting.
“It is great for the kids that get to play in the game,” Guthrie said. “We are a small school and there are not going to be many times in their lives playing at Harmony Grove where they are going to be in front of that many people. I am excited for our kids because it is something special for them to get out there and hear the roar of the crowd — either side. It is a rush for them.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.