Wando hasn’t lost a football game on the road all season, but the Warriors were forced to rally in the second half for a 30-21 victory over a stubborn Conway team in the opening round of the Class 5A state playoffs Friday night.
Trailing 21-16, the Warriors took the lead for good after Conway failed to get the kick away during a punting situation early in the third quarter.
After sacking punter Tonka Hemingway at the Conway 27, Wando scored two plays later when quarterback Braden Pritchard connected with Gabe Major on a 10-yard scoring toss with 9:44 remaining in the third stanza. Arthur Rocha added the PAT for a 23-21 lead.
After an exchange of turnovers by both sides, Wando put the game away on Pritchard’s three-yard scoring pass to Will Harris with 5:03 remaining.
“Too many turnovers,” Conway coach Carlton Terry said after the game. “They turned the ball over, too, but they capitalized on our turnovers. Their defense played lights out and we weren’t able to come back.”
Conway drew first blood when Damien Wilson alertly picked up a Wando fumble on the third play of the game and raced 28 yards to paydirt. Chris DeWitt added the first of three successful PAT attempts for a 7-0 advantage.
“The ball popped out and I scooped it up,” Wilson said.
Conway’s first miscue of the night allowed Wando to take the lead.
After recovering a fumble at the Conway 20, Pritchard teamed up with Maken Glover for the final 11 yards and a touchdown with 5:48 remaining in the opening stanza. Holder Will Pickren took the snap on the PAT attempt and raced untouched into the endzone for an 8-7 advantage.
The Warriors extended the lead after the officials ruled a fumble on what the Conway coaching staff thought was an incomplete pass.
Pritchard and Glover hooked up for a 20-yard touchdown three plays later. This time, Pickren took the snap on the conversion and quickly threw ball to a wide-open Dillon McCarthy for two points and a 16-7 lead.
“What hurt us in the beginning is they called a fumble when it should have been an incomplete pass,” Terry said.
Conway pulled within 16-14 when Zay Kinlaw snared a pass from Carlton Terry Jr. and raced 70 yards to paydirt with 2:15 remaining in the half.
The Tigers intercepted Pritchard on the first play following the kickoff and turned it into six points when Terry and Kinlaw joined forces for a three-yard touchdown with 39 seconds remaining in the half.
“We did a lot of good things, just not enough to win,” the Conway coach said. “Our heart goes out to the seniors. They did a good job trying to lead this team. I love these guys.”
Conway (3-7) ended the season with three wins for the second consecutive year. Wando improved to 7-3.
Terry said the two could see each other again early in the 2020 campaign.
“We’re trying to play them in the non-region [part of the schedule],” Terry said.