I’ve been covering high school sports since 1995. This is my 27th high school football season. And what I saw last Friday when covering the Harding Academy-West Fork game is something for the ages.

Harding Academy senior defense back Ryan McGaha scored three defensive touchdowns in the first 2 minutes and 22 seconds of the Wildcats’ 56-6 win over the Tigers in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs at First Security Stadium.

McGaha, who switched from offense to defense this season, returned two fumbles for touchdowns and intercepted a pass and returned it 26 yards for a third score.

I’ve covered a lot of good football players and games over the years, especially Carlisle, Cabot and Lonoke. But what McGaha did was just legendary.

Defensively, the Wildcats scored five touchdowns off five West Fork turnovers in the first quarter as Harding Academy led 49-0.

Even Harding Academy coach Neil Evans said he had never seen anything like that during his coaching career.

“It was pretty special,” Evans said. “I don’t know what other adjective to give it. I don’t think I’ve ever been a parr of anything like that before as a coach.”

Harding Academy is mostly known for its offense. However, the defense definitely made a statement against West Fork. And if a third consecutive state championship is in the cards, the defense will continue to step up.

Another weapon that doesn’t get a lot of publicity for the Wildcats is junior kicker Kyle Ferrie.

This season, Ferrie has made 54 of 57 extra point attempts and 11 of 14 field goal attempts. His longest field goal is 41 yards.

On kickoffs, Ferrie has 76 touchbacks in 81 kickoff attempts. He also averaged 42.8 yards per punt.

The seasons for Riverview and Searcy football came to an end last week. The Raiders, one of the surprise teams in the state this year, lost 17-14 to Paris.

Riverview started the season hot, going 4-1. The Raiders were hit with a rash of injuries and bad luck before beating Mountain View in the regular-season finale to end the season 5-5. They gave Paris all they wanted and then some before coming up short at the end of the playoff game Friday night.

Riverview coach Chris Keylon should be considered for every coach of the year award this season. He took over a team that went winless a year ago and got this year’s players to buy in to what he was selling.

For Searcy, the Lions were 4-3 before dropping their final four contests, including a 52-6 loss to Little Rock Parkview in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.

First-year coach Zak Clark did a tremendous job of getting the most out of his players.

Junior running back Dede Johnson was one of the best runners I’ve seen in my 27-year newspaper career. He finished the season with 1,974 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.

Basketball update

Thank you to all the coaches who sent me scoresheets and information for last Saturday’s edition. It makes my job so much easier, especially when trying to cover 18 teams – nine high schools – in White County.

Please keep it up. My freelancer Mel Suiter and I will be getting to as many basketball games this season as we can, especially once the Harding Academy football season is concluded.

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