No. 1 ranked Black­hawks have fi­nal tune-up Host the Car­di­nals

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - SPORTS - JOHN MCGEE Sports Writer

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.

Other games

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.

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