Showdown at the battlefield slated for Friday
The long awaited rematch between the Pea Ridge Blackhawks and the Prairie Grove Tigers comes this week with a lot at stake in the outcome.
Depending on the poll you read, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove are both favored to win this week and be in line to grab the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs. The third team in the run at the top, Shiloh, was defeated by Prairie Grove 35-21 last week and has to hope for a Blackhawk victory for the private school boys to have any hope for a tie at the top. The ’Hawks will invade Shiloh Stadium on the final game of the regular season three weeks from Friday.
Prairie Grove has worked their way up the ladder this season, playing the fifth, then fourth, then third seed teams from the 2016 playoff qualifiers. This week, the Tigers play the No. 2 seed from ’16 in the Blackhawks, to complete their difficult part of their schedule. Their three final conference games come against the bottom of the conference squads, so the Tigers hope to lock down their third straight title this Friday.
A lot of observers rate the Blackhawk offense as the best one in the league with the Tigers defense getting the nod as perhaps the district’s finest. It looks like it will be the best versus best — the Blackhawks’ 40-point a game scoring offense against the Tigers’ 13 points per game scoring defense.
Shiloh could have won the game at Prairie Grove, leading 21-20 in the fourth quarter. The Tigers scored to go up 28-21, then intercepted a Shiloh pass at the Tiger 5-yard line to stop the privateers bid to retake the lead. On Shiloh’s next drive into Tiger territory, another interception was pulled off with the runback netting the game’s final score with 1:15 left, giving Prairie Grove a near insurmountable 35-21 lead, and that is how the game ended.
Shiloh’s penchant to gamble burned them badly in the first half, going for a first down on fourth down five times. The Tigers made Shiloh’s roll of the dice turn up snake eyes as each fourth down play failed.
For the ’Hawks to win Friday, the offense needs to do what they have done all year and the defense has to play their best game yet. Mistakes made on either side of the ball can hurt. After losing a raft of defenders from last year’s state championship finalist team, the Pea Ridge defense in 2017 is extremely young, but has been making strides all season.
Head coach Stephen Neal remarked two weeks ago that “We are not as good as we need to be, and we are not as good as we are going to be.” Perhaps this week is the week we will see the ’Hawks playing as well as they potentially can.
Last week, the ’Hawks handled a good Gravette team that hadn’t suffered a loss on Pea Ridge soil in decades, if ever. Since 2000, Gravette was 8-3 against the ’Hawks with all Pea Ridge victories coming at Gravette. Last Friday’s defeat of the Lions broke that streak.
Prairie Grove is the other team with an unblemished record when playing at Pea Ridge. Like the Gravette stat before Friday, the ’Hawks have beaten the Tigers three times since 2000, but only in Tiger Stadium.
This week would be a great one to fix a lot of things with a victory over the visiting Tigers. Prairie Grove has long been a football power, a team that makes few mistakes on the field. To beat them will take a supreme effort by the ’Hawks, and a supreme job of supporting the ’Hawks by the students, fans and the community.
Upsets hard to find in week No. 6
The sixth week of the 4A football season saw zero upsets in games across the state.
In the 1-4A, the four favored teams proved victorious with Pea Ridge downing Gravette 42-28 while Prairie Grove knocked off Shiloh 35-21. In the other two games of the district, Gentry whipped Huntsville 42-28 while Lincoln ran over Berryville 39-0.
The Pioneers and Eagles had a game remarkably similar to the Pea Ridge/ Gravette matchup. Gentry went into the fourth quarter comfortably 28-12, with Huntsville scoring a pair of late touchdowns to make it a bit closer. Jon Faulkenberry carried his team again, rushing for over 200 yards while passing for more than 100, personally scoring half the touchdowns on runs while passing for two more.
Across the state, Batesville Southside went to 6-0 and is now the only undefeated team in the 2-4A with a 28-14 win over Lonoke. Gosnell won the battle of the undefeated in the 3-4A, beating Trumann 35-14.
In the 4-4A Dardanelle and Booneville kept their records unblemished as they look towards their game with each other in two weeks. Booneville crushed Dover 41-2 with Dardanelle rolling past West Fork 42-0.
Down in the tough 7-4A, Ashdown and Robinson have emerged as the two unbeaten teams in the district. Ashdown beat a good Malvern team 42-7 with Robinson pushing Nashville to the back of the pack with a 34-10 drubbing of the one time king of the 4A. When Pea Ridge defeated Nashville in the playoffs last season, it snapped a 26 game Scrapper winning streak. Since that game, Nashville has a 3-3 mark, 1-2 in their district. perennial league doormat Bauxite has been a surprise this year with a 4-2 mark, 2-1 in the district. Arkadelphia, after getting shut down by Robinson last week, obliterated Fountain Lake by a 70-7 margin.
In the week to come, the game of the week across the state will likely be the Pea Ridge/Prairie Grove matchup. Both top 5 teams in all the polls, it will be the only game with such highly ranked teams teeing it up.
In the 1-4A, Gentry will host Shiloh with both teams tied for 3rd with 2-1 marks. The Pioneers will be decided underdogs, but Shiloh did have trouble corralling the Tiger running backs last week as they rushed for well over 200 yards. Faulkenberry will get his yards but will it be enough to offset Shiloh’s passing attack. I sure hope so.
Gravette gets a breather this week at Berryville. The Bobcats are averaging less than a touchdown a week following their 61-0 win over 2A Decatur to start the season. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Decatur points turned out to be more than half of the Bobcats’ season’s totals. Lion tailback Austin O’Brien will run up a ton of yardage this week.
Huntsville at Lincoln is an interesting match. Lincoln has a lot of small but quick athletes while the Eagles have a good quarterback in McCone. The Eagles have scored against some good teams, actually leading Shiloh after one quarter. They have an issue with depth, as does Lincoln. The loser of this game has absolutely no chance of being in the playoffs this season.
The 7-4A matchups are headlined by the Ashdown/Nashville tilt. Ashdown is 3-0 with Nashville down at 1-2. For the Scrappers to lose again, is to put them in danger of not even making the playoffs. Ashdown is favored but the game is at Nashville, and the Scrappers have their backs to the wall.
Arkadelphia is playing formerly No. 5 state ranked Mena which has stumbled to an 0-3 league mark. With no weak teams in the district, it is likely a god team might finish the year in the basement. It might be Mena. Former basement
dweller Bauxite is playing Fountain Lake and if Bauxite wins, they will be 3-1 with a playoff berth within their grasp, something they haven’t had a a long while.
Meanwhile, defending 4A champion Warren is cruising through the 8-4A, with their last game a 55-24 drubbing of Dumas. A former power conference, five of their league members languish in the lower half of the state rankings with only two, Hamburg at No. 18 and Dumas No. 23 having even a little better than average rankings. By contrast, the 4th ranked team in the 1-4A is ahead of the 8-4A leagues 2nd best team.
1-4a conference standings
1. Pea Ridge 3-0
2. Prairie Grove 3-0
3. Gentry 2-1
4. Shiloh 2-1
5. Gravette 1-2
6. Lincoln 1-2
7. Berryville 0-3
8. Huntsville 0-3
State rankings still jumbled
The three state ranking services are still not seeing eye to eye with different teams picked at the top of the heap in each poll. Pea Ridge lead the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette poll, with Ashdown on top in the MaxPreps/CBS poll with Warren leading the Hooten’s Football poll.
Democrat-Gazette 4a poll
1. Pea Ridge 6-0
2. Warren 5-1
3. Robinson 6-0
4. Prairie Grove 6-0
5. Ashdown 6-0
6. SS Batesville 6-0
Hooten’s 4A poll
1. Warren 5-1
2. Pea Ridge 6-0
3. Robinson 6-0
4. Arkadelphia 5-1
5. Prairie Grove 6-0
6. Ashdown 6-0
MaxPreps/CBS 4A State poll
Pea Ridge’s 14-point win over Gravette boosted their power rating to its highest of the season, but their overall ranking dropped two more places to the sixth position. Impressive wins by Prairie Grove, Warren, Arkadelphia, Ashdown, and the new leader Robinson boosted their power ratings even more. Only five 4A schools remain undefeated headed into week No. 7 of the 2017 season, with that number to drop to no more than four after Friday.
1. Robinson 6-0
2. Ashdown 6-0
3. Prairie Grove 6-0
4. Warren 5-1
5. Arkadelphia 5-1
6. Pea Ridge 6-0
7. Booneville 5-1
8. Shiloh 4-2
9. Southside 6-0
10. Dardanelle 5-1
11. Riverview 5-1 12.Bauxite 4-2
13. Nashville 3-3
14. Ozark 4-2
15. Central 5-1
16. Gravette 2-4
17. Trumann 5-1
18. Stuttgart 3-3
19. Hamburg 3-3
20. Gosnell 3-3
21. Malvern 2-4
22. Star City 2-4
23. Mena 3-3
24. Pottsville 3-3
25. Heber Springs 3-3
26. Dumas 3-3
27. Fountain Lake 2-4
28. Dover 4-2
29. Monticello 3-3
30. Pocahontas 3-3
31. Westside 4-2
32. Gentry 4-2
33. Lonoke 2-4
34. Highland 2-4
35. Lincoln 2-4
36. Brookland 3-3
37. Waldron 3-3
38. Huntsville 1-5
39. Central Ark 0-6
40. Crossett 1-5
41. Harrisburg 3-3
42. DeWitt 2-4
43. Dollarway 0-5
44. Baptist Prep 0-6
45. Berryville 1-5
46. Subiaco 2-4
47. Cave City 0-6
48. West Fork 0-6
’Hawks have three leaders in conference stats
The Blackhawks are well represented among the leaders of the 1-4A football statistics as compiled by the MaxPreps/CBS high school football website.
Drew Winn is the leader of most yards rushing, most touchdowns scored, and most points scored in the most recent posting. Tristan Brewer is leading the conference in tackles, with Hayden Holtgrewe atop the leader board in receiving yards. Jakota Sainsbury is in second place in passing yards.
Other listed honorees include Jordan Witcher, third in pass reception yardage, and Gavin Warden, fifth in tackles recorded.
1. Drew Winn, Pea Ridge 1,174 yards
2. Austin O’Brien, Gravette 1,1152 yards
3. Jon Faulkenberry, Gentry 564 yards
4. Tajae White, Gravette 397 yards
5. Sean McCone, Huntsville 333 yards
1. Hayden Holtgrewe, Pea Ridge, 615 yards
2. Peyton Wright, Gentry, 477 yards
3. Jordan Witcher, Pea Ridge, 446 yards
4. Jake Nelson, Shiloh, 420 yards
5. Blake Thomson, Shiloh, 411 yards
1. Drew Winn, Pea Ridge, 102 points
2. Jon Faulkenberry, Gentry, 88 points
3. Austin O’Brien, Gravette, 72 points
4. Zach Elzey, Huntsville, 64 points
5. Hayden Holtgrewe, Pea Ridge, 52 points
1. Landon Brown, Shiloh, 1,304 yards
2. Jakota Sainsbury, Pea Ridge, 1,110 yards
3. Jon Faulkenberry, Gentry, 1,027 yards
4. Sean McCone, Huntsville, 799 yards 5. Tajae White, Gravette, 418 yards
1. Tristen Brewer, Pea Ridge, 75 tackles
2. Kenton Tajaeman, Gravette, 70 tackles
3. Austin O’Brien, Gravette, 61 tackles
4. Brady Moorman, Gravette, 59 tackles
5. Gavin Warden, Pea Ridge, 47 tackles
Editor’s note: John McGee is an award-winning columnist and sports writer. The art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, he coaches elementary school children in track and writes a regular sports column for The Times. The opinions expressed are those of the author. He can be contacted through The Times at email@example.com.