High school football playoffs start this week
“The playoffs start this week” was something the Blackhawk head football coach Stephen Neal said last Friday with reference to the upcoming Pea Ridge/Shiloh dust up this week.
While actually being the regular season game finale, Neal was referring to fact that the game this week will set the path for the 4A playoffs when they get underway next week. Both teams have clinched berths in the playoffs and will play Friday to see who gets the No. 1 seed and a considerable home field advantage, and who loses and will face a lot of bus time before they can play in the state final in December.
No matter what happens Friday, both Pea Ridge and Shiloh will be home next week in the first round.
Friday’s winner will likely play the winner of the Crossett/Star City matchup. Those two teams play off Friday for the No. 5 seed in the 4A-8. Friday’s loser will be at home to face No. 4 seed from the 4A-3, West Helena.
While, obviously, nothing is set in stone beyond next week due to the unpredictability of high school football, should Friday’s winner take an opening round victory, they will most likely host Dardanelle in the second round. From there, the team that survives this path will play either Robinson, Arkadelphia, Bauxite or Nashville at home in northwest Arkansas.
The other portion of the 4A-1 champion’s bracket will include the No. 2 and the No. 4 seed from the tough 4A-7. Right now, the Cinderella Bauxite Miners is tied with Robinson atop their district with 5-1 league marks. Bauxite plays Nashville Friday, and if they win, they grab the No. 1 seed, sending Robinson to a likely No. 2 seed and Nashville to No. 4. If Nashville beats Bauxite, Robinson wins the No. 1 with Bauxite finishing fourth and Nashville No. 2.
Over to the other side, this Friday’s loser will play host to West Helena then likely take on either Hamburg or Dumas. That game will be at Hamburg if the Lions win or at the home of the 4A-1 runner-up if Ashdown wins. The third round will probably be on the road to Wilson to play Rivercrest. Rivercrest won the state 3A crown last season, and held the No. 1 4A ranking this season until getting upset by Jonesboro Westside a couple of weeks ago.
Looking way, way, way down the road, should the 4A-1 winner make the state semi-finals, they will likely run into a game at Warren, the current No. 1 ranked team in the state. The 4A-1 second seed will likely play a semi-final game at the 4A-7 champion, which could be either Bauxite or Robinson if they make it that far.
Of course, crazy things could happen and a late developing team could hit their stride and make some playoff waves. Turnovers can flip game outcomes on their head, and poor weather can also affect how things turn out.
The Blackhawks have a shot at playing in Little Rock again this year, but the road will be tough. Graduating their offensive weapons from a year ago to graduation left the ’Hawks with some big holes to fill, and the recent loss of more cogs in their offensive machine has made the remainder of the season even more challenging.
Pea Ridge is not the same team that was mercy ruled by Harrison in the season opener and it is not the same team that rolled over Gravette a month ago. However, the team has adapted, accepted the challenge, and is playing to win this week and in coming weeks.
Coach Neal felt like the team was ready to have a great week of practice and will bring their best to bear against the private school boys Friday. The ’Hawks have a three-game winning streak going against Shiloh in their new stadium and in fact, have never lost to their rivals in that stadium.
In 2014, both teams were undefeated going into the season finale, a game held in Pea Ridge. It was the Blackhawk’s first time to host Shiloh at their new facility and like this year, the ’Hawks were decided underdogs going in.
In maybe the most shocking game of the year in northwest Arkansas, Pea Ridge not only won, they won big to confound the experts. They completely dominated Shiloh 32-6 to put the finishing touch on an undefeated 10-0 regular season.
They say history repeats itself.
4A-1 District football stats and standings
The Blackhawks are entering the final week of play in the 4A-1 District and they have established themselves as the top rushing team in the league.
Pea Ridge has piled up 2,111 yards of rushing offense so far this year, leading the league in the ground game by a wide margin over the district’s second best rushers in Lincoln (1,225). Shiloh leads the pack in the passing game, piling up 1,830 yards. All told, the best team in total offense team in the 4A-1 is Pea Ridge with 3,255 yards ahead of Shiloh who has around 3,000.
Samuel Beard is the league leader in rushing with 964 yards, just shy of the magic 1,000-yard milestone. The league leader in passing in Gentry’s Brandon Atwood who has 1,225, just ahead of Shiloh’s Eli Reece who has 1,185.
Shiloh’s Truitt Tolbert is the league leader in scoring with 58, with the ’Hawks’ Beard just back in second with 56 points. Beard is tied with the league lead on touchdowns along with two Shiloh athletes, all three with nine TDs.
The Blackhawk’s Arnoldo Rascon is a league leader on the defensive