After jumping out to a 16-0 advantage, the Barton Bears (6-1, 3-1) held off a fierce second half charge by the Bald Knob Bulldogs (3-4, 2-2) to post a 42-34 victory in a key 2-3A showdown Friday night.

After jumping out to a 16-0 advantage, the Barton Bears (6-1, 3-1) held off a fierce second half charge by the Bald Knob Bulldogs (3-4, 2-2) to post a 42-34 victory in a key 2-3A showdown Friday night.

Bald Knob opened with a successful on-side kick but their short drive stalled. It looked as though the Bears were going to strike and draw blood early when Wanya Wilkins raced 53-yards setting up shop for Barton at the Bald Knob 14. Wilkins had been sidelined by injury against Marianna but was effective in limited action against the Bulldogs.

Bradly Smith ran the ball in from 14 yards out but a critical holding penalty stripped the points off the scoreboard. The Bears eventually turned the ball over on downs.

Penalties also stymied the Bulldogs' next drive and they punted the ball right back to the Bears.

With 3:48 to play in the opening quarter, the Bears' Devin Olloway got things started offensively for Barton with the first of his two touchdown runs on the night. This one came from 52 yards out. Tre'von House ran in the 2-point conversion and Barton grabbed an 8-0 lead, a lead they would never relinquish.

Barton's defense was tough through the first 10 minutes of action. Bald Knob was unable to post their initial first down until the 9-minute mark of the second quarter.

The Bears' second score did not come until the 5:24 mark of the second quarter. Smith broke free for a 76-yard scoring run – the first of his three on the night. Wilkins tacked on the 2-point conversion.

This was where the offense took over. Three touchdowns were scored within 1:08. First, Bald Knob put to together an impressive drive. Quarterback Clayton Collins capped off the 45-yard march with a 4-yard run with 2:16 left in the half. The successful extra point almost cut Barton's lead in half at 16-7.

Bald Knob picked off a Barton pass to set up a second quick score. This time, Collins heaved a 60-yard scoring toss. The 2-point conversion pass failed but the Bulldogs were now within a field goal at 16-13 with 1:31 to go.

Barton responded quickly. Smith was off to the races again with a 50-yard scoring jaunt. The 2-point conversion run failed and the Bears took a 22-13 lead into the locker room at intermission.

The Bulldogs got the ball first in the second half but their early efforts met with frustration through penalties. Following a punt, Barton got a little breathing room when quarterback Matt James connected with Smith for a 62-yard scoring play with 8:57 to play in the third quarter. Again, the 2-point conversion failed but the Bears had increased their lead to 28-13.

There was no more scoring in the third quarter until the Bulldogs put together a drive that culminated in a 7-yard run with just three ticks left on the third quarter clock. Barton still led 28-21.

Both teams scored twice in a wild and wooly fourth quarter finish. With 8:51 to play, Wilkins turned on the after-burners and raced 51 yards for his lone touchdown of the night. Olloway punched in the 2-point conversion and Barton extended its lead to 36-21.

The Barton faithful were almost sure that the Bears had this one safely tucked away when Olloway returned a Bald Knob punt 70 yards to lift Barton to a 42-21 advantage.

Bald Knob refused to give up. The Bulldogs returned the ensuing kick-off to inside the Bears' red zone. The ball eventually crossed the goal line from a yard out with 4:21 still left to be played.

A Barton fumble gave the Bulldogs new life and hope inside the Bears 25. Collins quickly clicked on a 24-yard TD pass with 2:14 to play closing the gap to 42-34 with the successful extra point. At this point, the Barton fans began chewing their fingernails.

Barton was able to secure the football and run the remaining 2:04 off the clock to preserve and important win that could mean home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Barton returns home to the friendly confines of Frank McClellan Field for the final three regular season games. Next up is Episcopal for homecoming.