High school foot­ball play­offs start this week

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

“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

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