Those who went to bed early Friday night missed the legend of Kane Archer reaching new heights.
In a rivalry game that started late because of weather, the Greenwood freshman quarterback already with multiple Power Five offers — including from Arkansas — came off the bench and led a dramatic 56-53 win over Fort Smith Northside capped by a Hail Mary as time expired.
The 39-yard strike, which can be seen in the clip below, was actually the Bulldogs’ second touchdown in the final 15 seconds. Sandwiched around an onside kick recovery, the scores completed a wild 18-point comeback at Smith-Robinson Stadium in Greenwood.
According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Leland Barclay, Archer completed 20 of 29 passes for 273 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, while adding another 21 yards on eight carries.
Nearly 300 total yards of offense is impressive on its own, especially given that most of them came in the second half, but considering the situation and his heroics at the end of a heated rivalry, it was an incredible performance by a ninth grader in his first significant action at the varsity level.
The Situation for Kane Archer
Kane Archer drew some national headlines — and several on this site — after picking up an offer from Michigan last summer, before he even started eighth grade. Missouri and Arkansas followed suit and he’s now up to 10 FBS offers, including four from the SEC, as a ninth grader.
Despite all of the college attention and his big numbers playing up on the ninth-grade team as an eighth grader last year, Archer begins his varsity career as a backup to senior Hunter Houston, a talented quarterback in his own right with offers from Dartmouth and Southwest Baptist.
Some shoulder soreness limited him in fall camp, too, so he played just one snap in Greenwood’s season-opening loss at Stillwater, Okla. That set the stage for his coming out part Friday night.
Houston was slammed to the ground and had to leave the game with 3:40 left in the second quarter and the Bulldogs trailing the rival Grizzlies 27-21, giving Archer his first significant varsity action.
“Here comes the freshman,” Greenwood play-by-play man Tim Terry said on the school’s YouTube stream. “It’s been a super huge hype machine, folks. Everybody’s heard about Kane Archer. Well, here we go. Let’s see what the kid’s got in a huge situation.”
Four plays and 39 yards later, which included a couple of completions, Archer checked out of the game when Houston was ready to go. The senior lasted just three more plays before getting shaken up again and then it was the freshman’s show the rest of the way.
Kane Archer’s Up-and-Down Performance
When Kane Archer entered the game for good, there was about a minute left in the half and Greenwood was in the red zone. He threw a pass that got the Bulldogs down to the 3, but his fourth-down attempt into the end zone fell incomplete in the closing seconds of the half.
Fort Smith Northside extended its lead to 33-21 at the start of the third quarter, but Archer helped Greenwood answer on the ensuing drive. He perfectly ran the option to convert one third down in the red zone and scrambled before finding a receiver open in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown on a fourth down a few plays later. It was his first career varsity touchdown.
As good as he was, though, Archer was far from perfect. On back-to-back plays early in the fourth quarter, he held on to the ball too long and took a sack instead of throwing it away and then severely under threw a receiver for an interception that gave the Grizzlies the ball at the 22, setting up a score to make it 39-28.
With his team down by 18, Archer connected with Grant Karnes — a sophomore who finished with nine catches for 228 yards and three touchdowns, according to the NWADG — for a 40-yard touchdown, but it’s worth noting that Karnes did most of the work. He caught the pass about yards downfield and made a couple guys miss.
That made it a two-possession game again, so Greenwood dialed up an onside kick and, after a failed try was negated by penalty, recovered it. However, Archer gave it right back when he scrambled and tried throwing across his body into traffic.
“That’s going to do it,” someone on the Greenwood YouTube broadcast said after the ill-advised interception.
If the turnover wasn’t bad enough, Northside quickly scored on a 64-yard touchdown run to push its lead back to 18 with 4:02 remaining. Even 5NEWS, which was already on air, felt the lead was safe.
“Still 3 minutes left in this game, but it’s looking good for Northside,” the broadcaster says in the clip below. “They currently have a 53-35 advantage.”
Greenwood’s Wild Comeback
It took some work, but it was not, in fact, “good for Northside.”
Karnes returned the ensuing kickoff to the 22-yard line, giving Greenwood excellent field position. Archer needed just five plays to get his team in the end zone. Less than a minute had come off the clock when he rolled to his right to avoid pressure and lofted a perfect pass to a wide open receiver.
The Bulldogs tried another onside kick, but failed to come up with it this time. They eventually got the ball back, but only 1:19 was left on the clock and they needed to cover 69 yards, trailing 53-42. Even the hometown announcers on YouTube weren’t very optimistic, with one saying, “We’re probably going to lose this game.”
Archer went back to work and completed 4 of 5 passes for 68 yards to get down to the 1-yard line, at which point Javon Williamson punched it in with 15 seconds left. Archer had to scramble on the two-point try and barely got in to make it 53-50.
The Bulldogs then recovered their second onside kick of the night, giving them the ball at the Northside 45 with 14 seconds remaining. Archer had to scramble on the first play and managed to pick up 6 yards before going out of bounds with seven seconds left.
With the Grizzlies playing a prevent defense, Archer stepped up in the pocket and fired a pass to Karnes, who caught it near the sideline at the 5. Despite being surrounded by four defenders, he quickly spun and dove across the goal line after the clock hit zero.
Pandemonium broke out after the score, with the Bulldogs swarming their teammate in the end zone as the lights at Smith-Robinson Stadium — where Greenwood has now won 51 consecutive games — flashed on and off.
It remains to be seen how the rest of Archer’s high school career will play out, as it has only just begun. Still, for a prospect who got an Arkansas football offer at 13 years old — believed to be the youngest ever offered by the Razorbacks — it was a varsity debut that will certainly always be remembered.
You can watch the full game here, with Archer first entering at the 2:22:00 mark:
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