Three 4A teams ranked No. 1 in state
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:
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
2. Pea Ridge
5. Prairie Grove
MaxPreps/CBS 4A state poll
2. Prairie Grove
4. Pea Ridge
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