Show­down at the bat­tle­field slated for Fri­day

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

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.

Rush­ing yards

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

Re­ceiv­ing 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

Points scored

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

Pass­ing yards

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

Most tack­les

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 prt­news@nwadg.com.

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