Big game looms Fri­day for Black­hawk foot­ball

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

The Black­hawk foot­ball team will hit the road Fri­day to take on the Prairie Grove Tigers in a piv­otal 4A-1 district bat­tle.

The Tigers and ’Hawks were the 2017 con­fer­ence co-champs. Pea Ridge topped the Tigers at home last year for the first time in his­tory but were up­set at Shiloh at the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son, cre­at­ing the tie. The ’Hawk vic­tory over the Tigers gave them the No. 1 seed, how­ever.

Prairie Grove has won or has shared the con­fer­ence ti­tle ev­ery year since Pea Ridge the ran the ta­ble in 2014 and went un­de­feated in the reg­u­lar sea­son. Though it seemed ev­ery sea­son saw the Wash­ing­ton County school grad­u­ate a ton of tal­ent, the very next year the Tigers would be reloaded and ready to roll.

This sea­son has been out of the or­di­nary for Prairie Grove. They were edged by a Farm­ing­ton team in the sea­son opener, a team that the ’Hawks pretty much de­stroyed. They lost to Shiloh 56-14 last week with a score that shocked a lot of peo­ple. They were also man­han­dled by Dar­danelle in a non-con­fer­ence game for their third loss, leav­ing them with a 3-3 over­all mark to date.

The three losses were marked by turnovers, es­pe­cially the loss at Shiloh last week. Suf­fer­ing five turnovers to a team like Shiloh is a recipe to dis­as­ter. Three straight fum­bled kick­offs by the Tigers early in the third quar­ter last week was the coup de grace in that con­test. How­ever, when the Tigers take care of the foot­ball, they are a po­tent team who can put lots of points on the board.

The Tigers won their game against Gravette by an iden­ti­cal 42-0 score. In that game, the Lions turned the ball over fre­quently and didn’t have the speed to match the Tigers as Prairie Grove scored on plays of 70, 89 and 98 yards. As has been their MO for many years, the Tigers are a run ori­ented year with Lane Dal­ton their big­gest threat on the ground.

Pea Ridge vic­to­ries over Prairie Grove have been rare.

MaxPreps/CBS State 4A Foot­ball poll

A lot of shuf­fling has oc­curred this rel­a­tive to the CBS com­puter poll. War­ren re-emerged at the top with River­crest slid­ing down into the third po­si­tion, both teams with 6-0 marks. No. 2 re­mains Robin­son who is sit­ting atop the 4A-7, the state’s top 4A con­fer­ence.

Shiloh moved into the sev­enth spot over­all with Pea Ridge slip­ping up closer to the Top 10, com­ing in 12th for their best rank­ing of the sea­son. For the first time in many years, no other 4A-1 team is in the top 25 ex­cept for the ’Hawks and Shiloh. The two will meet on the last reg­u­lar sea­son game, to be held at Pea Ridge the first Fri­day of No­vem­ber.

Pea Ridge owns but three wins over the Tigers all time, all close games. They bested the Tigers 27-24 in 2005 in a game that ru­ined the a per­fect sea­son, and they won 28-20 in 2014, with both games con­sid­ered huge up­sets. Last sea­son’s 26-21 win over Prairie Grove was the ’Hawks first vic­tory when they were fa­vored to win, ever. Coach Stephen Neal’s charges will be go­ing into Fri­day’s bat­tle as the fa­vored team.

As the Tigers have proven them­selves, turnovers throw the stats to the wind. If you can’t main­tain con­trol of the ball when you have it, the chances of vic­to­ries are greatly di­min­ished. Pea Ridge suf­fered a slew of turnovers in the sea­son’s first two games, los­ing both and giv­ing up lots of points. Since then, the lo­cals have outscored their op­po­nents 138-21 with few turnovers.

If the ’Hawks take care of busi­ness Fri­day, they will then face the league’s two worst teams in Ber­ryville and Green For­est, be­fore host­ing Shiloh in what could a game for the con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship and with it, the num­ber one seed for the play­offs. Re­tool­ing the lineup af­ter the loss of a very tal­ented se­nior class has been chal­leng­ing but the pieces are com­ing to­gether for the 2018 ’Hawks.

Not many gave the Black­hawks much of a chance to de­fend their ti­tle of a year ago. Just like the most re­cent pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, “It ain’t over un­til it’s over.”

Hawks tied for first

The Black­hawks are knot­ted with Shiloh for first in the district.

Last week saw four one-sided games, with the ’Hawks thump­ing Gravette 42-0, Shiloh blow­ing by Prairie Grove 56-14, Lin­coln bomb­ing Ber­ryville 41-7, with Gentry mercy rul­ing Green For­est 35-0.

This week, be­sides the Pea Ridge/Prairie Grove matchup, Lin­coln plays Green For­est, Gravette bat­tles Ber­ryville, with Gentry in­vad­ing Shiloh. Lin­coln will get their third win to al­most cinch a play­off berth, Gravette will likely earn their first vic­tory of the 2018 sea­son, with Gentry hav­ing a rough time in Springdale.

Cur­rent stand­ings:

4a-1 District foot­ball

1. Pea Ridge 3-0

2. Shiloh 3-0

3. Prairie Grove 2-1

4. Lin­coln 2-1

5. Gentry 2-1

6. Gravette 0-3

7. Ber­ryville 0-3

8. Green For­est 0-3

MaxPreps/CBS 4A State Foot­ball poll

1. War­ren 6-0

2. Robin­son 5-1

3. River­crest 6-0

4. Baux­ite 6-0

5. Du­mas 5-1

6. Nashville 5-1

7. Shiloh 5-1

8. Stuttgart 4-2

9. Dar­danelle 5-1

10. West He­lena 5-1

11. West­side 5-1

12. Pea Ridge 4-2

13. Ozark 4-2

14. Ham­burg 5-1

15. Arkadel­phia 1-5

16. Har­mony Grove 4-2

17. South­side 3-3

18. Elkins 6-0

19. Gos­nell 2-4

20. Pottsville 3-3

21. He­ber Springs 2-4

22. Foun­tain Lake 3-3

23. Ash­down 3-3

24. Lonoke 3-3

25. Bald Knob 3-3

26. Prairie Grove 3-3

27. Lin­coln 5-1

28. Poc­a­hon­tas 3-3

29. Tru­mann 3-3

30. Star City 2-4

31. Mena 3-3

32. Cen­tral Arkansas 3-3

33. Cros­sett 1-4

34. DeWitt 3-3

35. High­land 1-5

36. Gentry 2-4

37. Riverview 2-4

38. Malvern 0-6

39. Cave City 1-5

40. Wal­dron 1-5

41. Ber­ryville 2-4

42. Dover 1-5

43. Su­bi­aco 1-5 44. Brook­land 0-6

45. Mon­ti­cello 0-6

46. Gravette 0-6

47. Mills 0-6

48. Green For­est 1-5 Editor’s note: John McGee, an award-win­ning colum­nist and sports writer and writes a reg­u­lar sports col­umn for The Times. He can be con­tacted through The Times at prt­news@nwadg.com.

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