Blackhawks on verge of No. 1?
Stephen Neal’s Pea Ridge Blackhawks started the year as the No. 2 team in both major football polls, with regards to the 4A classification.
The ’Hawks took their No. 2 ranking into the first game played in the state, teeing it up with Hamburg in the Kickoff Classic in Conway Aug. 28. The Pea Ridge offense fired up their heralded offense to rack up 50 points against a good Hamburg team in the 50-30 victory.
The state’s top-rated Warren Lumberjacks didn’t fare as well, falling 43-28 to Little Rock Christian in a game that could have been much worse for the defending state champions. While Warren did lead at the half, it was due to LRC having the ball near the Warren end zone when turnovers allowed the Jacks to flip the field and score going the other way. In the second half, LRC stopped their mistakes and cruised by Warren on their way to victory.
Another factor in the loss may have been the fact that Warren’s roster is down to 40 players this season, low numbers for the football powerhouse from the south. It has rumored in the national press that for the first time ever, football participation may be down in the United States, the first time that may have ever happened.
Meanwhile, another highly ranked and regarded team, Little Rock Robinson, may have won their opener but they were clearly outplayed by Hot Springs Lakeside in another early opener. Multiple turnovers gave Robinson a big halftime lead, but they were outgained in total yardage and should have won the upset.
Because of a early press time due to the approaching Labor Day Weekend, I don’t know the results of the Week No. 2 MaxPreps or Hooten’s Polls, but there is a good chance that Pea Ridge may be sitting atop one or the other. Not that it would affect the season one way or another, but just for the historical event it would be. Of course, the only poll that really counts is the one that comes out the week after the state championship game in December. And it is a long, long, “loooong” time to December.
This past Friday, Gravette traveled to Ozark, Berryville visited Decatur, Gentry hosted Lavaca, Huntsville invaded Green Forest, Elkins took on Shiloh with Lincoln entertaining Westville.
Pea Ridge also played Friday against Booneville, having already taking down Hamburg on the previous Monday. A lot of football writers are curious as to how the Blackhawks fared against a tough two-game week, both road contests. Should the ’Hawks prevail again, I think a number one ranking is in the offing, at least for now.
Prairie Grove took Farmington apart last Tuesday in their “Battle of the Highway” annual dustup. Either the Cards are down this year or the Tigers are better than expected with the Prairie Grove victory coming much easier than expected. I fully expect the Card faithful to be clamoring for the top ranking themselves. As a matter of fact, the Tigers did spend a little time atop the 4A state rankings last season before losing in the state semifinals.
In my picks for the games gone by, I think that Gravette’s loss of numbers and Ozark’s resurgent football program may have led to a Hillbilly victory. Not that it would please me, I wish the Lions to win every game they play with the exception of the game with us. I once lived in Gravette, my grandson plays in the Gravette system, and I have met a lot of fine people over there, so I wish them the best every season. They are my second favorite team in the 4A-1.
Huntsville likely whipped a depleted Green Forest team which doesn’t have a rosy outlook for the 2017 season. They are happy over there in GF to have gotten Pea Ridge off their schedule this season. However, the AAA has moved the Tigers into the 4A-1 for football for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, so the respite will be a brief one.
Lavaca’s Golden Arrows hoped to shoot up Gentry last Friday, but I think the Pioneers have enough skill position players to take down their 3A foe. Lavaca won last year in an upset, but this is another year, and it is in Gentry.
Berryville has the good fortune, maybe, of playing one of the weakest teams in the state in their opener in Decatur. The 2A school has struggled to get enough boys to even have a team. When their coach of 2016 resigned to be able to coach the cross country team full time, I thought at the time that this may be it for football. Decatur won the state title in cross country last fall with a part-time coach, and if the football beatings continue it may die a natural death
For the finale, it will be Elkins visiting Shiloh. This game was supposed to be a blow out last year, but it wasn’t. Elkins could have won, and they only lost by a fairly small margin. The new coach and system put in place at Elkins last year has revved up the Elkins’ fortunes and they had a banner year in 2016. If they have improved a lot this season, they could take the private schoolers.
This Friday, the ’Hawks will be taking a much needed week off, having already played their first two games of the season. The other seven conference schools will be fully engaged.
Gentry will get the nearly automatic win when they entertain Decatur n the neighbor rivalry. Huntsville plays at Farmington, and the outlook doesn’t look all that good for the Eagles. Huntsville will be back playing in the 5A West next season, and they will likely be the cellar dweller after the move.
A big test for the Lions at Gravette will be their hosting of Booneville, the up and coming team from the 4A-4. The ’Hawks played the Bearcats last week so the two games may give us an indication how the Pea Ridge/Gravette battle may play out come week No. 6 of the season. If Gravette is as depleted as some observers have indicated, the Lions may come up short.
Lincoln is hosting Keys, a weak program in Oklahoma. Maybe the Wolves can get in a victory before the conference season begins when the “W”s may be hard to get.
Little Rock Christian is fresh off their conquest of Warren, and with a new head coach and new system, the Warriors seem to have turned a corner down their in Capitol City. If Shiloh can pull off a win here, they may be a state contender again. Naw — it won’t happen.
Finally, we have Vian visiting Prairie Grove. The Tigers will be 2-0 with another easy win under their belts.
State MaxPreps 4A Top 25
1 2 3 4 Warren
Pea Ridge Prairie Grove Robinson (Little Rock) Nashville 0-0 Ashdown 0-0 Gosnell 0-0 Ozark 0-0 Arkadelphia 0-0 Shiloh Christian 0-0 (Springdale) 11 Stuttgart 0-0 12 Dardanelle 0-0 13 HeberSprings 0-0 14 Hamburg 0-1 15 Mena 0-0 16 Malvern 0-0 17 Booneville 0-0 18 Gravette 0-0 19 Trumann 0-0 20 Southside 0-0
5 6 7 8 9 10 0-0 1-0 0-0 1-0 35.3 0.0 30.7 13.2 21.1 0.0 14.7 12.5
14.1 14.0 12.0 8.4 8.0 7.8
7.4 6.8 4.9 3.6 2.9 2.5 0.5 0.2 -2.5 -2.8
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
0.0 0.0 0.0 40.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
No. 60 John Bross 6’2” 260 lbs. No. 23 Hayden Holtgrewe 6’1” 165 lbs. No. 15 Trevor Henry 5’6” 155 lbs. No. 11 Kenny Dorsey 5’9” 155 lbs. No. 73 Zack Humphries 6’3” 300 lbs.