No. 1 ranked Blackhawks have final tune-up Host the Cardinals
Coach Stephen Neal’s 2-0 No. 1 state ranked Blackhawks have their first home game of the year and are looking to get their 12th straight non-conference win when they host the 5A Farmington Cardinals Friday.
The gridiron ’Hawks are hoping to add to their string of victories over the Cards, having won the last three tussles. Pea Ridge pulled out a 13-7 victory last year in their lowest offensive output of the 2016 season.
The Cardinals have a 6-3 won-lost record over the locals since they began series play in 2004. Farmington won the first six games of the series, winning by average of 20 points each game. In the last three games, however, the ’Hawks have flipped the advantage, winning games over their former conference rivals by an average of 20.
Farmington comes into the game with nearly identical results from the 2016 season. In 2016, they were thrashed by Prairie Grove in their opener, then blew out Huntsville in the second game. The same thing has happened so far by nearly identical scores. Farmington is the 17th ranked team in 5A.
The Cards do have more seniors than last year with 21 suiting up. They have a dozen less players than do the Blackhawks but with more experience.
The offense is keyed by 6’4” 195-lb. quarterback Trey Waggle. He could only connect on 35 percent of his passes against Prairie Grove, but the lanky lad has a good arm. The rushing attack depends on 5’9” 185-lb. senior Caleb Williams and 5’9” 170-lb. junior Reid Turner to carry the ball.
Pea Ridge counters with senior quarterback Jakota Sainsbury who is completing 67 percent of his passes and is throwing for 191 yards per game. Senior Drew Winn is averaging 162 yards per game on the ground and has scored a half dozen touchdowns already. Winn is averaging 6.6 yards per carry. Case Duncan is averaging 40 yards per game rushing with an average 6.7 yards per carry.
Senior receivers Hayden Holtgrewe and Jordan Witcher are having good seasons. Witcher leads with the most receptions so far with 16 with Holtgrewe leading the way in receiving yards with 215.
On defense, Tristan Brewer is racking up 15 stops per game to lead the defenders, with Carson Rhine averaging eight tackles per contest. Robby Pickthal and Kenny Dorsey are tied for third with a seven-tackle per game average.
Farmington has most of their players back from a team that pressed the ’Hawks last season and has an edge in experience. On the other hand, last year was the third game of the Neal era, with the two previous teams in 2016 not exactly putting a lot of pressure on the ’Hawks.
The game this year will be the 18th game of the Neal era, and the two games the ’Hawks played prior to Friday were far and away tougher than what they experienced in 2016. Playing at home for the first time in the regular season should inspire the Blackhawks and the locals should win this game.
However, this is high school football. No game is ever won before it is played and you just never know what will happen. If someone would have bet that Booneville would lead the ’Hawks 19-0 in the first quarter of last week’s game, I would have said “no way!”
The real season begins next week when the Gentry Pioneers come to town. The three non-conference games have no bearing on district standings and have no effect on playoff consideration.
4A-1 football has a rough week
Only two of the eight 4A-1 conference teams came up with a victory last week.
With Pea Ridge sitting out a week, the only wins were produced by Gentry and Prairie Grove.
Gentry played 2A 40thranked Decatur, whipping the hapless Bulldogs by a 56-7 count. The Pioneers racked up their scores by halftime before letting the junior varsity finish the game. Prairie Grove pounded Vian, Okla., by a 41-21 count.
Among the five league losses, Keys, Okla., won by a surprisingly large margin over Lincoln 34-16. Lincoln had upset Westville last week and some predicted a Wolf win this week, but no, it didn’t happen. Clinton overwhelmed Berryville 340, a week after the Bobcats blew out the Decatur bunch. Clinton is a lot better than Decatur.
Farmington crushed Huntsville 48-18, winning by the same margin as last year. Booneville shook off their defeat by the ’Hawks last week, handling Gravette by a 28-13 count. Finally, the Little Rock Christian Warriors repaid Shiloh for last year with a 40-20 drubbing of the private school boys from Springdale.
LRC shocked Warren last week, a victory that paved the way for Pea Ridge to ascend to the 4A state top ranking in the MaxPreps and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette football polls. The Warriors are led by Justice Hill, son of former University of Arkansas coach Fitz Hill. Hill has already committed to Arkansas but to play basketball, not football.
4A-1 football this week
A full slate of eight games is on tap this week in the 4A-1 with five schools playing host.
On the road sees No. 2-ranked Prairie Grove taking on No. 46th-ranked West Fork, No. 7 Shiloh at No. 16 Pottsville, and No. 30 Gentry at No. 26 3A Greenland.
Prairie Grove is 14-2 against West Fork since 2001 and the game will be over early. Shiloh beat Pottsville last year and this game should be close. The Gentry/Greenland game will be at Pirate Stadium with Greenland holding a 5-2 edge in wins/losses.
Lincoln ought to get their second victory of the year hosting the 0-2 45th-ranked in 3A Mansfield Tigers. Gravette is hosting Jay, a team they have beaten the last six times out. The Lions have depressed numbers this season and are 0-2 this year so far.
Berryville is hosting 3A 44th-ranked Green Forest, a much weaker team than Clinton, and they ought to win. It might be their last win on the 2017 season. Huntsville is hosting the Elkins Elks, and that ought to be a good game. Huntsville holds a 7-4 edge in the series but the Elks are a much better team the past two years.
Warren plays Watson Chapel in a game they should win. The Lumberjacks won over Stuttgart by two touchdowns last week but Arkadelphia beat the Ricebirds the week previous 29-0. Fans may remember the Badgers opening the playoffs in Pea Ridge and the Blackhawks had as tough a game with them as with any other, excluding Warren. In the tough 4A-7, I think Nashville is about to be dethroned.
Speaking of Nashville, they will be playing scoring machine Idabel, Okla. The two schools combined for way over 100 points last year in a game the Scrappers just outscored their out of state rival. The new coaching regime in Nashville has their boys racking up the points, but their defense is far more porous since ex-coach Billy Dawson moved on.
‘Hawks are No. 1 in state
For the first time ever, the Pea Ridge Blackhawks have received a No. 1 poll ranking in a team sport, in this case football.
When the Blackhawks took on the challenge of playing two highly ranked teams in the first week, coupled with a surprise loss of the state’s previously top ranked team, the things fell into place to usher Pea Ridge to the top of the mountain.
As I have mentioned before, the only poll that really counts is the one immediately following the season’s final game in Little Rock. Having said that, it is still
No. 21 5’7” 150 lbs. No. 14 5’11” 180 lbs. No. 24 6’0” 195 lbs. No. 40 6’0” 170 lbs. No. 33 5’6” 151 lbs.