It took the Dollarway Cardinals longer than usual to take control of the game, but they defeated the Stuttgart Ricebirds 32-13 Friday night to maintain first place in the 2-4A Conference.

It took the Dollarway Cardinals longer than usual to take control of the game, but they defeated the Stuttgart Ricebirds 32-13 Friday night to maintain first place in the 2-4A Conference.

“Stuttgart came out ready to play. Their style of play dictates a slower-pace game,” said Dollarway head coach Cortez Lee.

For the first time this season, the Cardinals (8-0, 5-0 in 2-4A) did not score in the first quarter. Senior quarterback Joshua Liddell converted on third-and-5 from his team’s own 36 during the first offensive possession.

However on fourth-and-4 from the Ricebirds’ 47, Dollarway came short of a first down and referee called the team for a chop-blocking penalty.

Both teams held each other scoreless in the first half. Stuttgart (4-4, 3-2) would have scored after recovering a Dollarway fumble, but the Cardinal defense contained senior running back Tyler Luster on third down and senior kicker Jackson Kennedy missed a 22-yard field goal.

The defending state 4A champions took advantage of Dollarway’s mistakes with sophomore quarterback Malike Brasfield scoring on a fourth-and-goal touchdown run at the 11:32 mark.

After both teams traded three-and-outs, Dollarway senior running back Darius Robinson spun his way out of initial contact from a host of Stuttgart defenders for a 68-yard touchdown run to tie up the game 6-6. The two-point conversion attempt failed.

As the first half was nearing its end with 1:27 to go, Liddell lobbed a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Kabion Ento to take a 12-6 lead.

Lee’s message was simple and to the point to his team during halftime.

“We’re going to come out and we’re going to score,” expressed Lee. “We’re not to waste too much time, and we can’t let a team like this handle us.”

But after the slow start in the first half, Lee’s message got through to his team and Dollarway came out swinging right at the beginning of the second half. Henri Murphy opened up the second half with a 75-yard run on a reverse for a touchdown. The Cardinals gained its first successful two-point conversion to put them up 20-6 over Stuttgart. The defense came alive as well by containing the Ricebirds on a critical fourth down on the following drive.

Capturing the momentum, Liddell found Ento again in the back of the end zone on a 17-yard post route. An unsuccessful two-point conversion kept the score 26-6.

Brasfield led the Ricebirds down the field effectively on the next drive by finding his receivers in the open spots of Dollarway’s zone defense. Luster capped off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, and with an extra point Stuttgart was only down 26-13.

On Dollarway’s ensuing offensive possession, the Ricebirds kept the Cardinals from moving the chains. On fourth-and-10, Dollarway elected to punt. The ball landed near the 10-yard line and became a live ball after a Stuttgart player touched it. Dollarway recovered and Liddell took matters into his own hands scoring the last touchdown of the game to seal the victory and preserve Dollarway’s perfect season.

Liddell finished the game with eight rushes for 45 yards and one touchdown while completing 4 of 6 passes for 56 yards and two touchdowns.

Robinson rushed six times for 96 yards and a touchdown. Chaderius Avery led Dollarway in tackles with 12 solo, eight assisted and two for losses. Nic Woodfork registered seven tackles, six assisted and two for losses.

Woodfork also forced a fumble and recovered the fumble as well.