Three 4A teams ranked No. 1 in state

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

With the topsy turvy 2017 sea­son go­ing full-bore, three dif­fer­ent teams sit atop the three sep­a­rate polling ser­vices that rank the 48 schools that par­tic­i­pate in 4A foot­ball across the state.

While the or­der of the top teams varies in ev­ery poll, one si­m­il­iar­ity is that five teams ap­pear in all three polls of the top six, in­clud­ing Pea Ridge, War­ren, Ash­down, Prairie Grove and Robin­son. Arkadel­phia dropped out of the top six in the DemocratGazette poll af­ter their loss Fri­day, with Batesville South­side tak­ing their place.

The Arkansas DemocratGazette re­leased their list of the best six teams in the state, and the Pea Ridge Black­hawks were voted into the No. 1 po­si­tion again for the fourth straight week. The DemocratGazette uses their writer’s staff to come up with their rank­ings, with the staff hav­ing a wide range of sources to de­ter­mine their se­lec­tions and their or­der. They list their se­lec­tions for each clas­si­fi­ca­tion in their Sun­day edi­tion each week.

Hooten’s Foot­ball mag­a­zine has de­fend­ing cham­pion War­ren Lum­ber­jacks still in the top po­si­tion, with the long­time power grab­bing that rank­ing since their state ti­tle vic­tory in 2016. Hooten’s uses staff writ­ers and a col­lec­tion of coaches to de­ter­mine their rank­ings, with the re­sults usu­ally com­ing out on Tues­day even­ing. The Black­hawks have been the sec­ond ranked team for the en­tire 2017 sea­son thus far.

The third ser­vice, MaxPreps/CBS, is one that is com­puter generated and ad­justed. Team records, mar­gin of vic­tory and strength of sched­ule are the big­gest driv­ers of what each team’s power rat­ing is. The MaxPreps poll usu­ally be­comes avail­able Sun­day even­ing at some point. The ’Hawks’ closer than ex­pected vic­tory over Lincoln last week cost them a few points, drop­ping them down from sec­ond to fourth. They were the No. 1 team un­til a closer than ex­pected vic­tory over Gen­try dropped them into sec­ond pre­vi­ously.

The reg­u­lar sea­son is now half­way into the books, with a bunch of im­por­tant bat­tles on tap this week across Arkansas that will go a long way to shape what the post-sea­son will look like when the play­off start in Novem­ber.

The top six in the three polls are:

state poll

1. Pea Ridge 5-0

2. War­ren 4-1

3. Robin­son 5-0

4. Prairie Grove 5-0

5. Ash­down 5-0

6. Batesville SS 5-0

Hooten’s 4A state poll

1. War­ren

2. Pea Ridge

3. Robin­son

4. Arkadel­phia

5. Prairie Grove

6. Ash­down

MaxPreps/CBS 4A state poll

1. Ash­down

2. Prairie Grove

3. Robin­son

4. Pea Ridge

5. War­ren

6. Arkadel­phia

4-1 5-0 5-0 4-1 5-0 5-0 5-0 5-0 5-0 5-0 4-1 4-1

Three con­fer­ence teams left un­de­feated

Af­ter two con­fer­ence games are in the books, three teams in the 4A-1 District are still un­de­feated with all three ranked among the state’s top seven. That list will drop to no more than two af­ter this week’s com­pe­ti­tion.

The first dustup among the league’s top four teams oc­cured last Fri­day with de­fend­ing cham­pion Prairie Grove bat­tling the con­fer­ence’s fourth-ranked team Gravette. The Tigers won the bat­tle of the cats, with the Wash­ing­ton County squad grind­ing out a 31-7 win over the Li­ons.

Austin O’Brien of Gravette con­tin­ues to im­press, rush­ing for more than 200 yards from his tail­back po­si­tion. The Li­ons’ prob­lem was they got very lit­tle of­fense out of any­body else, with all the other backs to­tal­ing 30 yards with only 25 yards ac­cu­mu­lated through the air. The Tigers scored a sin­gle touch­down in each of the first three quar­ters to en­ter the last pe­riod with a 19-0 lead as they faced an out-manned but tena­cious Gravette de­fense.

Gen­try evened up their league mark at 1-1 with a 21-0 past­ing of Ber­ryville. The Pi­o­neers kept the lid on the Bob­cats’ of­fense all night and used the run­ning/pass­ing of Jon Faulken­berry to grab one of the three league wins they will need to get into play­offs.

Shiloh even­tu­ally ran the out­matched Huntsville Ea­gles out of the sta­dium, crush­ing them 56-20 to stay un­blem­ished in league play. The Ea­gles ac­tu­ally ended the first quar­ter lead­ing Shiloh by a 12-7 count, shock­ing lots of peo­ple who ex­pected a to­tal blowout. The sec­ond quar­ter was a bad one for the Ea­gles, as Shiloh racked up six touch­downs for a 42-point ex­plo­sion and a 49-12 lead at the half.

The pri­va­teers from Spring­dale scored on passes of 18, 20, 45, 90 and 95 yards to ini­ti­ate the Mercy Rule by in­ter­mis­sion in that fate­ful sec­ond quar­ter. A short rush­ing touch­down just be­fore the break pro­vided the 35-point Mercy Rule mar­gin.

This week, two of the top three teams will square off with Prairie Grove and Shiloh meet­ing on the Tigers’ home turf. Last year’s matchup was sup­posed to an even match but the Tigers were mo­ti­vated to re­spond to some un­sports­man­like posters with which Shiloh had adorned their Spring­dale sta­dium. Dis­played promi­nently were signs stat­ing “Dis­ney Over­rated,” re­fer­ring to Prairie Grove all-state player Isaac Dis­ney. Prov­ing that he might have ac­tu­ally been un­der­rated, Dis­ney sparked the Tigers on both of­fense and de­fense that re­sulted in a lop sided win over Shiloh. Maybe this year’s Shiloh posters will serve to mo­ti­vate their own play­ers, and not the op­po­si­tion.

Pea Ridge and Gravette will hook it up on the Ridge in the other game fea­tur­ing two of the top four teams. Pea Ridge spot­ted the Li­ons a 10-0 lead in 2016, but came roar­ing back to win by 30. Pe­cu­liarly, it would seem that the Li­ons have never lost a game in Pea Ridge. Since 2000, Gravette is 8-0 when play­ing in Pea Ridge, with all three wins the ’Hawks have in the se­ries hap­pen­ing in 2012, 2014 and 2016, all games held in Gravette.

It would ap­pear this is the year to break the Gravette stretch of vis­i­tor vic­to­ries, and to do that they will need to con­tain the Lion’s O’Brien. The Gravette se­nior has been a marked man in all the games to date, but he is still av­er­ag­ing close to 200 yards a game in spite of that. Stop O’Brien from cross­ing the goal line and Gravette has a very poor chance for an up­set.

The other two games will be the lower four ranked teams bat­tlng it out for that fifth seed for the play­offs.

Huntsville will host Gen­try in what I think will be the defin­ing game for who gets the in­side track for the last play­off spot. Huntsville can score, re­fer­ring to their early lead against Shiloh. The Ea­gles have had trou­ble de­fend­ing the pass and the Pi­o­neers have the per­son­nel to air it out with Falken­berry hav­ing a trio of re­ceivers to fling it to. Gen­try will get their sec­ond win, then needs only to de­feat Lincoln later on to gain the berth.

Ber­ryville and Lincoln will tee it up with both teams look­ing for their ini­tial win in the 2017 sea­son. Lincoln has shown some speed and the fact that they have a pretty good quar­ter­back and re­ceiv­ing corps. Lincoln should take this game and maybe quite hand­ily.

1-4A district stand­ings

1. Pea Ridge 2-0

2. Prairie Grove 2-0

3. Shiloh 2-0

Kate­lynne Caniza­les Makayla Wis­hon Sarah Har­giss

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