After a first-round bye, the Glen Rose Beavers would eke by a familiar foe last week in the second round of the 3A state playoffs. Falling to the Fordyce Redbugs in Week 3 of the regular season before beginning 4-3A Conference play, the Beavers would avenge that loss last week, downing the Redbugs 21-14 at Beaver Stadium. It was Glen Rose’s seventh straight victory to put them at 8-2 overall.
“It was a big win for our kids,” longtime Glen Rose Coach Mark Kehner said. “Fordyce is a matchup nightmare for us because the first half they’re in an overload two-tight end set just powering the ball at us. They’re so big up front and have so much speed at the skill positions.
“The second half they’re spreading us out all over the field. Glen Rose in space is normally not a good thing, but we seemed to limit the big plays. We gave up a few, but we didn’t give them up for touchdowns this time. That was the key to the game.”
The Beavers turned to their bread and butter in last week’s victory, junior running back Heath Ballance and the Glen Rose offensive line. Ballance would run 19 times for 160 yards and a touchdown, while also catching a 22-yard TD from junior quarterback Rein Bland, who was 4 of 9 for 88 yards and two TDs, the other a 20-yarder to Draven McSpadden, and two interceptions. Junior Lane Franks would also run 21 times for 81 yards in the win.
It’s no secret what the Beavers will rely on offensively in Friday’s 3A quarterfinals match against the undefeated Melbourne Bearkatz (12-0), 61-51 winners over Greenland last week after first jumping on Jessieville 55-14 in the first round.
“That’s always who we are since I’ve been head coach, for sure,” Kehner said of relying on the ground game. “We have to establish the run. We’re never going to have a quarterback who’s going to sling it all over the field. It’s just not going to happen at Glen Rose. We want to establish the run with our offensive line. Ballance has had a tremendous year hitting it between the tackles, tough. That’s what we’re going to do again this week. We need to set the tone with him, ground and pound em, and then ultimately play-action pass over the top after that.”
Ballance has run for 1,266 yards and 16 TDs on the season while the QB Bland leads the Saline County area in completions (129 of 183), yards (2,054), touchdowns (23) and rating (193.1). Franks, much more involved in the run game of late, leads the area with 43 catches, adding 597 yards and five TDs. McSpadden adds 21 catches, 477 yards and area leading eight TDs and 22.7 yards-per-catch average.
The Beavers will need that offensive output on Friday vs. the Bearkatz and can probably put some points up as Melbourne has seemed to have to outscore opponents, and they have done a great job of it with an undefeated record.
The Bearkatz have averaged 45.8 points per game on the season led by senior quarterback Trey Wren, who has thrown for 2,249 yards at a 73-percent clip, with 33 TDs against just seven interceptions. Wren also has 592 yards and 10 TDs on the ground.
Wren’s favorite targets are senior Carter Bray, 75 catches, 1,152 yards and 18 TDs, and sophomore Grant Wren, 45 receptions, 607 yards and 11 TDs.
Melbourne also has a 1,000-yard rusher in junior Robert Langston, who has gone for 1,023 and 13 TDs on the ground.
“That’s a good question,” Kehner asked on how to stop the Bearkatz on Friday. “They have tremendous skill kids. The quarterback has a great arm and can run. All of their receivers seem to be long and fast. We’ve got our work cut out for us. They move people around, put them in motion. If you make a mistake, they’re over the top hitting you. That’s what they’ve done to people for 12 games, just big play after big play after big play.”
While the Melbourne offense has simply outscored other squads, the Glen Rose defense has come into its own during its seven-game win streak. Giving up an average of 38.3 points through their first three games, the Beavers have allowed an average of just 9.9 their past seven.
“We’ve kind of started settling in and playing good defense, but it’s going to take a tremendous effort Friday to slow them down,” Kehner said.
The Beavers and the Bearkatz will kick off at 7 p.m. at Beaver Stadium at Glen Rose High School. Tickets are available online only at https://gofan.co/app/school/AR18621.