Scrimmage Challenges Tiger Character
NOTE: Tuesday’s varsity football game between Farmington and Prairie Grove was played after our press deadline. For a game summary see the Washington County Enterprise-Leader Facebook page.
PRAIRIE GROVE — Will Hawkins was frustrated. His “White Squad” trailed their “Black Squad” teammates, led by starters Anthony Johnson, J.D. Elder and DeMarcus Cooper, 22-0, at halftime of Prairie Grove’s annual Black and Gold game.
Hawkins and company were one play away from shutting down the “Black offense” on each of the scoring drives. Hawkins’ teammates on the defensive front were active. They forced “Black” to make plays, which they did, led by quarterback J.D. Elder to open up a three touchdown advantage.
The Prairie Grove varsity was split into two teams for the Aug. 17 football scrimmage and the “Black team” wasted no time in jumping out to an early lead. Senior J.D. Elder completed a long pass to Collin Bryant, setting up first-and-goal from “the White” seven. Prairie Grove head coach Danny Abshier said J.D. Elder, son of assistant coach John Elder, looked good throwing the football.
“He handled adversity,” Abshier said. “He faced pretty good pressure.”
Abshier said the team has gotten better conditioning in training camp due to cooler than usual August temperatures. Practices don’t always give coaches an accurate assessment.
“They give you a false sense of what you’ve got,” Abshier said.
He said an intra-squad scrimmage like the Black and Gold game takes the team to another level and serves a purpose.
“More than anything it really exposes the weaknesses you have,” Abshier said. “Sometimes in practice you can’t always get motivation to go hard every play. Out here the competition shows because you’ve got everybody going full speed every play.”
On the opening series, Lane Dalton stuffed a run, then Stormi Hankins penetrated the backfield stopping Keiandre Hobbs for a loss which brought up third down. J.D. Elder completed a touchdown pass to Anthony Johnson to convert from the eight. J.D. Elder ran in the 2-point conversion when nobody was open after he dropped back to pass.
Three plays later, Collin Bryant got the ball back for the “Black squad” with an interception. He alertly caught a tipped-ball that was thrown quickly after a two-step drop. Ethan Guenther, yet another defensive lineman, sacked J.D. Elder, who wisely tucked the ball in when he saw the rush coming.
Johnson bailed “Black” out of a second-andlong situation with a long run again setting up a red zone opportunity. On the next play, Hobbs ran hard, spinning for extra yards to
pick up the first down.
On first and goal, J.D. Elder dropped back in the pocket, but again all receivers were covered so he tucked the ball in and ran to the five. Cooper was targeted on a crossing route, but the pass fell incomplete. Ethan Guenther and Dustin Burton combined to tackle Cody Kruse forcing “Black” into fourth-and-goal.
“White” anticipated an inside run, but couldn’t contain Johnson, who found the middle closed off so he bounced outside and turned on the jets to score around left end. Garret Heltmes ran in the 2-point conversion.
“White” turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession which gave “Black” another short field. Stone Bryant batted away a pass intended for Johnson in the end zone, but Elder came back with another throw to Collin Bryant, who juked out of a tackle and scored with 1:28 left in the first half of the scrimmage.
“White” didn’t allow a single score in the second half of the scrimmage. “Black” opened with a trick play that concluded with J.D. Elder catching a pass. He was tackled immediately. Hawkins smothered a Heltemes run and Kaine Caswell sacked Elder. White forced a turnover on downs and converted a fourth down near mid-field on Aaron Preston’s carry. Ethan Scates threw complete to Ethan Guenther for a big gain, then capped “White’s” lone scoring drive of the scrimmage with a touchdown pass to Stone Bryant.
Abshier praised the “White team” for playing tough in the second half after falling behind. He noted, “It’s hard to keep your head up when you’re down three scores.”
“They’re stepping up. The senior class is coming together,” Abshier said. “I think they know their strengths and weaknesses. They’re coming along pretty good.”
Abshier sent a shout-out to volunteer auctioneer Rusty Collins, one of his former players, who played cornerback and runningback during his Tiger career.
“He comes back and helps out so much.”
Each year, Collins lends his talents in conducting a pie auction to raise funds for the football program. He handles the crowd and conducts the bidding with enthusiasm that sets the mood for Tiger fans anxious to celebrate the arrival of football season.
Auctioneer Rusty Collins, who played cornerback and runningback during his high school career at Prairie Grove, annually helps coach Danny Abshier out by conducting a pie auction to raise funds for the football program. NOTE: Tuesday’s varsity football game between Farmington and Prairie Grove was played after our press deadline. For a game summary see the Washington County Enterprise-Leader Facebook page.