’Hawks

Trounce Bearcats

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN MCGEE Spe­cial to The TIMES

If ath­letes can learn more from ad­ver­sity than they can from easy vic­to­ries, the Black­hawk foot­ball team got a year’s worth of lessons from their hard-fought 29-19 vic­tory over the Booneville Bearcats in a road bat­tle last week.

Though they were fac­ing two long road games against two for­mi­da­ble op­po­nents in the open­ing week of ac­tion, the ’Hawks were nev­er­the­less in­stalled as fa­vorites to win both con­tests. Head coach Stephen Neal was much more wary of Booneville call­ing the hosts “a great school in a great com­mu­nity, and no team can ex­pect an easy time play­ing in their sta­dium.” Neal’s com­ment proved prophetic.

It looked for a time that Pea Ridge may get blown out early, fall­ing be­hind 19-0 in the first 11 min­utes of the game. Black­hawk turnovers, mis­takes and with Booneville mak­ing the most of their op­por­tu­ni­ties, the Bearcat crowd was ex­ult­ing in the huge up­set that seemed to be brew­ing.

How­ever with the ’Hawk de­fense rising up to choke off Booneville’s ini­tially pro­duc­tive of­fense, key runs by tail­back Drew Winn, with nu­mer­ous com­ple­tions made from quar­ter­back Jakota Sains­bury to Jor­dan Witcher and Hay­den Holt­grewe, Pea Ridge shut out their hosts the rest of the way while scor­ing the last 29 points of the con­test. It proved to be the ’Hawks’ 11th straight non­con­fer­ence vic­tory.

After be­ing a non-fac­tor in the first quar­ter, Winn ex­ploded for 160 yards on 17 car­ries in the last three quar­ters, scor­ing three times, all but one of the Pea Ridge touch­downs. Sains­bury scored the Black­hawks’ first TD in the sec­ond pe­riod to start the come­back.

Pea Ridge won the toss and ac­cepted the open­ing kick­off. Things were go­ing well with Sains­bury hook­ing up with Witcher twice for over 20 yards to­tal with the se­nior sig­nal caller also gain­ing 9 yards on two keep­ers. How­ever, after driv­ing deep into Booneville ter­ri­tory, an alert Bearcat picked off an er­rant pass and flipped the field, re­turn­ing it to the ’Hawk 36. Five run­ning plays took the ‘Cats into the end zone where they as­sumed a 6-0 lead with 6:53 show­ing in the first quar­ter.

Missed blocks on the ’Hawks’ next pos­ses­sion re­sulted in a big loss, with a sub­se­quent bad snap that rolled free hang­ing an ad­di­tional 15-yard loss on the vis­i­tors. Fac­ing fourth and 32, the ’Hawks punted and the Bearcats nearly re­turned it all the way, get­ting down to the ’Hawk 5. Two rushes later and the Bearcats were back in pay­dirt, boost­ing their lead to 12-0 after the run for the PAT failed with 3:27 show­ing.

Bad things weren’t through hap­pen­ing to the ’Hawks as the ball was turned over to the hosts in­side Pea Ridge ter­ri­tory. Three plays later, the Bearcat tail­back scam­pered loose, knif­ing into the end zone to raise their lead over Pea Ridge to an as­tound­ing 19-0 with less than a minute to play in the open­ing pe­riod.

Passes to Holt­grewe and Witcher seemed to get the mori­bund ’Hawk of­fense stir­ring, but the first of many of­fi­ci­at­ing calls to go against Pea Ridge de­railed the drive, forc­ing a punt with 10 min­utes left in the half.

Sains­bury’s punt was a gem, rolling down to the Bearcat 2-yard line to start the Bearcats’ new pos­ses­sion. In­cred­i­bly, the Bearcats got to run off 11 plays but could not get past their own 25 be­fore be­ing forced to punt.

It was this stiff­en­ing re­sis­tance that helped get the ’Hawks un­tracked. On the very first play after the punt, Winn broke left then sprinted 30 yards down the side­lines to get into Bearcat ter­ri­tory at the 25. Winn slashed his way for­ward on the next play for 11 more yards to the 14-yard line. Winn then had to leave the game for a time when a Bearcat player per­son­ally at­tacked him, though no flag was thrown.

Sains­bury then lo­cated a fly­ing Holt­grewe, fling­ing him a pass for 11 yards to the Bearcat 1-yard line. Two plays later saw Sains­bury sneak it in. The 2-point con­ver­sion try was ac­cu­rate, with Holt­grewe tak­ing a pass to get into the cor­ner of the end zone and re­duce the deficit to 19-8 with 2:47 left in the half.

Black­hawk de­fend­ers came up huge two plays later, knock­ing the ball loose from the Bearcat quar­ter­back with Robby Pick­thal pick­ing up the loose pigskin, run­ning it back to the Booneville 21. On first down, Winn shot up the mid­dle to pick up 19 yards and a first down on the Bearcat 2. Two plays later saw Winn burst into the end zone with 0:52 left in the half. The PAT failed leav­ing the ’Hawks down at the in­ter­mis­sion, 19-14.

The ’Hawks started the sec­ond half off right, hold­ing the hosts to -2 yards in their first se­ries. Bad luck wasn’t fin­ished mak­ing it­self known to the ’Hawks, with the vis­i­tors get­ting just one play off be­fore fum­bling pos­ses­sion back over to Booneville on their own 42. The ’Hawks kept the heat on the Bearcats, al­low­ing just 3 yards of of­fense in eight plays, with only penal­ties mov­ing the ball for­ward for Booneville.

After tak­ing over at their own 29 with 6:02 left in the half, a pass from Sains­bury to Holt­grewe net­ted 14 yards to the ’Hawk 43. All-State Winn got the call for five straight runs, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing 20 yards to the Bearcat 32. A cou­ple of quick passes to Witcher for 8 then 6 yards got the ’Hawks a first down in­side the red zone. Two plays later saw Winn burst free to blow into the end zone, but a late call erased the scor­ing run. Then came, per­haps, the play of the game.

The fourth and 11 call on the 32 was jammed up by the Bearcat de­fense, with one of the Booneville line­men knock­ing the ball loose to the ground. An alert Winn scooped up the loose pigskin, ran to the right end, then bolted along the north side­lines to make his sec­ond trip to the end zone. Winn’s scoop and score gave Pea Ridge the lead for the first time with a scant 0:36 left in the pe­riod. Holt­grewe brought down a pass from Sains­bury for the PAT as Pea Ridge now lead by 3, 22-19.

After gain­ing but a soli­tary sin­gle yard of of­fense in the third quar­ter, Booneville showed some signs of life, pick­ing up 10 yards of rushing to their own 42 to start the fi­nal pe­riod. How­ever, a crash­ing de­fense brought the ball out to give the ’Hawks an­other chance to move the ball, start­ing from the Bearcat 44. A deep pass to Holt­grewe net­ted 18 yards, but a sub­se­quent pass was nabbed, leav­ing the Bearcats with a chance to come back.

The ’Cats were ini­tially suc­cess­ful, with a first down pass netting 13 yards. Two straight penal­ties set them back as did two in­cur­sions by de­fender Jack­son Till­man that re­sulted in losses of -2 and -11. How­ever, after the punt, the ’Hawks could not get any­thing go­ing and the Bearcats re­gained pos­ses­sion with a lit­tle more than 5 min­utes left in the game.

Down by only 3 at 22-19, the hosts des­per­ately needed a first down start­ing from their 20, but three ef­forts only lost them a yard. A Booneville punt gave the ball back to Pea Ridge with 4:53 left in the game. Two passes to Witcher net­ted 9 yards and a pair of runs by Winn net­ted the same to­tals. An­other run by Winn nearly scored, but the refs brought it back, push­ing the ’Hawks into a sec­ond and 15 from the Bearcat 40. The next play lost 6 yards so Pea Ridge was star­ing at third and 21 with the game on the line.

Light­ning struck for the third time, as Winn got up a head of steam then plowed around the left end, dash­ing to the end zone with 2:01 left in the game. The kick by Evan Green was good to give the ’Hawks a safe 29-19 lead.

The Bearcats some­how man­aged to run 17 plays in the game’s last two min­utes but never ap­proached mid-field as Pea Ridge held on to win and go 2-0.

“I’m glad Drew can be Drew,” said a re­lieved coach Neal after the game. “His scoop and score in the third pe­riod, then his touch­down run fac­ing a third and 21 were great. Over­com­ing all this ad­ver­sity will help us greatly down the road.”

“This was an answer to a chal­lenge, not just by our program but also by our whole com­mu­nity,” Neal went on. “We have such great support from the com­mu­nity, the boys never feel out of any bat­tle no mat­ter how bad things may look to them.”

The vic­tory by the ’Hawks ends the two-game se­ries that Booneville and Pea Ridge started to­gether. Next year, the ’Hawks will have 5A schools Har­ri­son and Maumelle on their non-con­fer­ence slate along with 5A Farm­ing­ton.

Mean­while, the var­sity will have a de­served rest after the week’s ac­tiv­i­ties. Their next game will be the Black­hawks’ first home game on Sept. 15, host­ing the Farm­ing­ton Car­di­nals.

TIMES pho­tographs by An­nette Beard

Black­hawk de­fend­ers came up huge, knock­ing the ball loose from the Bearcat quar­ter­back with Black­hawk se­nior Robby Pick­thal (No. 24) pick­ing up the loose pigskin, run­ning it back to the Booneville 21, open­ing the way for se­nior Black­hawk Drew Winn to make the sec­ond touch­down of the evening. Team­mates con­grat­u­lated Pick­thal!

Se­nior Black­hawk Hay­den Holt­grewe (No. 23) sig­nals a touch­down for cheer­ing Black­hawk fans as the Black­hawks turned around the game against the Booneville Bearcats Fri­day night in Bearcat Sta­dium.

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