The Pine Bluff Commercial

Hampton: Punt block wasn’t called


The first time Cameron Roetherford’s mom got to see him play in person this year, he made one of the biggest plays of the season.

The sophomore defensive lineman from Detroit blocked a punt in the second half of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s 35-34 road win at Texas Southern on Saturday, helping

UAPB finish a tough year with a big win.

UAPB (2-9, 1-7 SWAC) coach Alonzo Hampton said the funniest part about the play was UAPB didn’t even call for a punt block.

“It was defense safe,” Hampton said. “We wasn’t even going to block it. We was just rushing it. They relaxed, and one of our guys, … Cam Roetherford, he goes through there, he rushes through, and he blocks it. And then we had another young man, Khalil Arnold, he picked it up. Khalil’s made a lot of plays for us this year. He picks it up, and while he’s getting tackled, he has enough awareness to pitch the ball back to another guy … and this young man [Elijah Jenkins] runs it in for a touchdown.”

The special teams touchdown cut UAPB’s deficit to 3428 in Saturday’s win at TSU (3-8, 2-6). The Golden Lions trailed 31-7 at halftime but rallied in the second half to earn their first SWAC win of the year in the final game of the season.

The Golden Lions have been close several times. UAPB had a chance to win or tie the game at the end of the Southern Heritage Classic, but Tennessee State blocked the game-tying field goal and ran it back for a touchdown. UAPB led Alabama A&M at halftime of the SWAC

opener but couldn’t hang on in a one-possession loss.

Even earlier in this game, UAPB got hit with a wacky play. The Golden Lions were at the Tigers’ 1-yard line with a chance to cut into an early deficit and make it 21-14. Instead, TSU knocked the ball out of UAPB quarterback Mekhi Hagens’ hands on a quarterback sneak and ran it back 96 yards for a touchdown, making it 28-7 Tigers. Hampton said all he could do was shake his head.

The big game-altering plays have mostly gone against UAPB all season in Hampton’s debut campaign,

but Roetherford’s block was one that finally went their way. On TSU’s next possession, the UAPB defense forced a fumble, leading to Hagens scoring a game-tying touchdown and Dean Sarris kicking the game-winning extra point.

UAPB finished the win with a fourth-down stop before taking a knee, and the celebration began. Hampton, who has said all year he will keep smiling no matter what happens, was grinning ear-to-ear as time expired in Houston.

He said his big smile came from knowing the players got to experience winning a SWAC game for the first time this season.

“Winning is hard,” Hampton said. “I think what we don’t understand is, every coach … wants to win, and we all prepare the same, but only one team can win the game. To be able to win in the fashion that we did, I think it was a lot of overjoy for me. I think it all came out. It’s a great feeling.”