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Malvern beats Harding Academy to win 4A state title

It's the first state title for the Leopards since 1993

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Nobody was raining on Malvern's parade in the 4A state championship game on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

The Leopards stomped Harding Academy 64-39 to claim their first state title in 29 years and second in school history. The victory over Harding Academy cut the Wildcats' dreams of a fourth consecutive state title short.

Right from the start, it was clear that offense would run the day. Harding Academy drove inside the five on its opening drive, only for it to stall out and end with a field goal. 

On the ensuing drive, Malvern responded with a 76-yard touchdown pass from Cedric Simmons. Harding then answered back with a long score of its own.

Then, things got wet. 

Due to inclimate weather in Little Rock, the game was suspended before the Wildcats could even kick the extra point. After a two-hour delay, the teams tried to take the field to warm up, only for lightning to send them back to the locker room once again.

Finally, three-and-a-half-hours after scoring the go-ahead touchdown, Harding Academy kicked the extra point to go up 10-7. The game, which kicked off at 12:10 p.m., had six minutes remaining in the first quarter at 3:45 p.m.

But the rain delay didn't slow down the Leopards. Simmons scored a 51-yard rushing touchdown to give the Leopards the lead. Then, Malvern forced a fumble and running back Jalen Dupree capitalized on a 57-yard score. The teams traded scores until halftime with Malvern entering the break up 43-32.

The Leopards' defense stepped up in the second half, which allowed their offense to keep their foot on the gas to run away with it.

It's the first state title for Malvern since the great Madre Hill helped the Leopards hoist a trophy in 1993. Running back Jalen Dupree was named the 4A State Championship Game MVP and can now put his name in the school's history book.

Dupree finished with 287 rushing yards, which is the second-most in Arkansas state championship game history.

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