Ashdown rallies to top DeWitt

Grayson Porter of Ashdown fights for extra yardage as J.J. Daniels (3) and Wyatt Jones (54) of DeWitt bring him down in the third quarter of a 4A second-round playoff Friday in DeWitt. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

DeWITT — Panther magic is working well in the postseason, and as quarterback Grayson Porter put it, there was no shortage of it.

Porter threw three touchdown passes and Ashdown stormed back from a 21-0 deficit to beat Conference 4A-8 runner-up DeWitt 30-28 on Friday in the second round of the 4A state playoffs.

Ashdown (6-5), the No. 4 seed from Conference 4A-7, will continue their playoff roadshow at Harding Academy next Friday. Harding Academy beat Malvern 58-34.

Ashdown stayed alive after another dominating second-half performance in the playoffs, having trailed 21-8 at intermission. A week earlier, the Panthers trailed Blytheville 14-8 at the break and was down 20-8 before scoring 30 unanswered to beat the Chickasaws on their field.

DeWitt Coach Tommy Cody warned his team what the Panthers were capable of doing.

“I give them all the credit. They did a good job,” Cody said. “We had our opportunities, and we just didn’t finish.”

Porter threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Braeden Walton with 8:51 left. The Panthers covered 34 yards in 5 plays after DeWitt (10-2) unsuccessfully tried to convert a fake punt on fourth-and-8.

DeWitt threatened to score with 5:59 left when Nash Brown forced a fumble by freshman quarterback Xavier Cox at his own 8. Ashdown melted the rest of the clock to win.

The Dragons enjoyed their winningest season since the early 1980s, by Coach Tommy Cody’s estimation, and was in prime position to score win No. 11, even going into the fourth quarter with a 28-24 lead. DeWitt was up 28-16 after Justin Ross ran for 15 yards out with 4:59 left in the third, only for Ashdown to narrow the gap with a 5-yard scoring carry.

Porter had touchdown passes of 13 yards to Caleb Blankenship, 5 yards to Hayden Zeigler and 16 yards to Walton. Porter ran 23 times for 57 yards — or 20 times for 74 yards before running out the clock on kneeldowns — and completed 9 of 14 passes for 150 yards.

“We all knew it could have been our last game, and we weren’t ready for it to be,” Porter said. “I know all my brothers, we’re going to fight for each other. That’s the special thing about us. We do things for one another, and we care about each other more than ourselves.”

Cox completed his first 6 passes and finished 7 for 12 for 135 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Korri Graham rushed 13 times for 103 yards, and junior Ross (9 carries, 44 yards, 3 touchdowns) accounted for all Dragon touchdowns.

“We’ve got good young talent,” Cody said. “The only way we win games around here is that we work hard. If we have a good offseason and no injuries, we can have another good year next year.”

Ashdown got on the board with a 9-play, 60-yard drive after Porter connected with Blankenship from 13 yards out with 53 seconds left in the half.

DeWitt outgained Ashdown 323-255 despite the loss.

“I just think we made more mistakes in the second half,” Cody said. “I don’t know they did anything different. We made mistakes. We had more penalties. We didn’t take care of the ball. If we play clean, I think we win the game.”