One of the fiercest rivalry games in South Arkansas is set for this Friday night, as the Harmony Grove Hornets (5-2; 2-0 in 3A-6 conference play) go on the road to take on the Fordyce Redbugs (4-3; 3-0).
The Redbugs have won six of the last 11 meetings since 2010. This year's matchup will be the second time that the teams will meet on the field as conference foes.
In the 2021 season, the Hornets and the Redbugs met in a defensive slugfest that took the game to the final minutes, involved a couple of officiating controversies and saw one of Harmony Grove's coaches get ejected. The Redbugs held on to defeat the Hornets 22-20 at home.
Last season, Fordyce was among the new teams to join Harmony Grove's conference by moving up from 2A play. Going into the game last year, Redbugs fans wore t-shirts that showed Hornets quarterback Caleb Johnson walking off the field with his head down after the previous year's loss.
But it was Johnson and the Hornets that got the last laugh, as Harmony Grove dominated Fordyce 60-14. The Hornets accumulated 440 total yards, with 152 of them coming from the rushing game.
Johnson completed 9-of-19 of his passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 19 yards and a touchdown on four carries. Johnson also took a 23-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the second quarter. Junior slot receiver Landon Garrett had a monster game, catching three receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns. The Hornets had another defensive touchdown in a fumble rerturned for a touchdown.
The Hornets are facing another offense that features a tight formation and a significant amount of misdirection. The Redbugs' offense averages 28 points per game and are coming off two consecutive games where they have scored at least 42 points.
In the past two matchups versus the Redbugs, the Hornets' defense has closed off running lanes for the ballcarriers. The Hornets' defense has accounted for 42 tackles for loss this season, for an average of six per game. Senior defensive end Quinton Jones is the primary run-stopper with 68 total tackles, 29 solo tackles and 12 tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Cameron Sanders is becoming a star on the defense. Through six games this season, Sanders has accounted for 43 total tackles and 27 solo tackles.
The Hornets remain one of the most vigilant and dynamic offenses in the state. Johnson, who is in his third and final season, is a dangerous playmaker in the air and on the ground. Johnson has completed 70-of-146 of his passes for 1,283 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He has also rushed for 245 yards and five touchdowns on 24 carries.
The Hornets are averaging 34.9 points per game through seven games this season. Their RPO-game, speed and athleticism on outside plays are going to be key factors in their productivity the rest of the season.
Harmony Grove is set to go on the road to face Fordyce at 7 p.m.