BRANSON, Mo. -- Branson High may not have started great at the inaugural Battle at the Border 7-on-7 football tournament, but it sure finished well.
The Pirates dropped a pair of games in pool play, but cruised through the Missouri side of the bracket and downed Harrison 21-12 in the finals to claim the title Thursday evening at Pirates Stadium.
Branson jumped to a 15-0 lead in the finals as quarterback Keigan Dougharty completed 8 of 9 passes, including two touchdowns, on the Pirates' first two possessions.
Rising junior Ty Werling intercepted a Harrison pass in the end zone for two points in between Branson's two scoring drives.
A key moment came on the first play of the game when it looked as though Harrison connected on a 35-yard touchdown pass. The Goblins were celebrating in the end zone when they were told the score was denied because of a time violation by the quarterback, which results in a sack in 7-on-7.
Another sack and an incomplete pass turned the ball over to Branson and the Pirates zipped down the field with four straight completions for a touchdown
Branson coach Anthony Hays said 7-on-7 may not be real football, but there's one thing he likes about it.
"You see the momentum and you see how your kids react to them and that's like Friday night," said Hays, whose team lost to Rogers High and Bentonville West in pool play. "We return about 13 starters but a lot of those kids making plays at receiver were JV kids or spot players last year. That was really nice to see them step up and compete."
The 24-team event matched 12 Arkansas teams against 12 Missouri teams. Bracket play matched Arkansas teams against each other and Missouri did the same setting up a team from each state matching up in the finals.
Harrison, which went 7-1 on the day, got a pair of late scores from running back/receiver Gabe Huskey.
Goblins coach Joel Wells liked what he saw from his team during one stretch, but made no excuses about lapses in the finals.
'They outplayed us," Wells said. "They made plays. We have to bring it every game. We started off the day a little sluggish and then we kind of got in a rhythm. They caught a little momentum and broke our momentum right there. It's a 20-minute game and it's hard to get it turned back."
NOTES: Bentonville West went 3-0 in pool play, but dropped a hotly contested 13-12 game to Rogers High in the first round of bracket play. The Wolverines were driving inside the 20 for a possible game-winning score when time expired. ... Rogers Heritage finished 3-1 with its lone loss to Branson, but was bumped to the consolation since Rogers and West went 3-0 in the pool and advanced to the cha... Click here to read full article
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette