Smoke­screen Back­fire

KICK­OFF RE­TURN IG­NITES PRAIRIE GROVE

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - NEWS - By Michael Eck­els and Mark Humphrey

PRAIRIE GROVE — Lay­ing down a smoke­screen might con­ceal ships at sea, but proved harm­ful to Gravette’s kick­off cov­er­age as Prairie Grove made them bite the bul­let.

Steam­ing full speed like a bat­tle­ship knif­ing through a fleet of burned out hulks, Ja­cob Watson re­turned the open­ing kick­off 87 yards for a touch­down and Prairie Grove never looked back on the way to 42-0 de­feat of winless Gravette Fri­day.

Smoke Fac­tor

Af­ter an elab­o­rate Home­com­ing cer­e­mony, the Lions took the field in a cloud of smoke drop­ping vis­i­bil­ity down to near zero. This gave the Tigers an un­ex­pected ad­van­tage as the Lions kicked off into this smoke on the north end of the field.

The ball landed in the hands of Prairie Grove’s Jack­son Sorters at the Tiger 10-yard-line. Sorters lat­eraled to Watson, who ran the ball into the end zone for an 87-yard touch­down.

Ac­cord­ing to Prairie Grove coach Danny Ab­shier, the smoke el­e­ment didn’t al­ter the kick­off re­turn. Plans pre­vi­ously im­ple­mented were ex­e­cuted by Tiger spe­cial teams.

“I didn’t even see that smoke un­til I looked at the game film,” Ab­shier said. “Where did that come from?”

As­sis­tant coach Ma­son Pink­ley de­signed the kick­off re­turn.

“A cou­ple of our play­ers kind of fig­ured it out and blocked dif­fer­ently than they had be­fore, and Ja­cob Watson found the right seams,” Ab­shier said. “It’s like breath­ing room, like we got spot­ted six points right off the bat.”

Big Plays

The winning for­mula for the Tigers fea­tured tough de­fense forc­ing Gravette to punt three times from well back on the Lions’ side of the field, which led to scor­ing drives of 50, 55, and 51 yards. Twice Gravette marched deep into Prairie Grove ter­ri­tory and twice they came away empty.

Not to be out­done the Tiger of­fense landed its share of hay­mak­ers. In the se­cond quar­ter, se­nior full­back Gar­rett Hel­temes raced 88 yards for a touch­down fol­low­ing an in­ter­cep­tion by Prairie Grove. In the fourth quar­ter, re­serve half­back Cade Grant streaked 93 yards to the house for a touch­down that was set up by a Tiger goal line stand.

Less than two min­utes af­ter Watson’s scor­ing run­back Gravette punted away its first pos­ses­sion with the Tigers tak­ing over at mid­field poised to add to their lead. Gravette’s de­fense tight­ened how­ever af­ter Prairie Grove pen­e­trated deep into Lion ter­ri­tory and the Tigers failed to score when a field goal at­tempt missed.

Pos­ses­sion re­verted to Gravette at the Lions’ 20-yard-line, but the home team lost a fum­ble with Prairie Grove re­cov­er­ing at the 11. Lane Dal­ton ran in the first of his three rush­ing touch­downs on the night with an 8-yard carry as this time the Tigers were able to ex­tend their lead to 14-0.

Tiger De­fense

Gravette tried to get its of­fense work­ing be­hind the lead­er­ship of se­nior quar­ter­back Ta­jae White in the se­cond quar­ter. The Prairie Grove de­fen­sive unit was just too strong hold­ing the Lions no closer than 30 yards from the Tiger goal line.

Gravette threat­ened but couldn’t fin­ish a drive when Sy­moyah Hobbs in­ter­cepted a Lion pass near the goal line and was tack­led at the Prairie Grove 12. On the next play, Hel­temes ripped off an 88-yard touch­down run, the first of a trio of Tiger scores in the quar­ter.

Gravette was forced to punt on its next pos­ses­sion and the end re­sult was Prairie Grove once more looked at a short field by start­ing a drive from its own 45. Dal­ton capped the march with a 15-yard touch­down run. Gravette couldn’t hold the ball long enough to get into half­time be­fore punt­ing with a sim­i­lar out­come. Prairie Grove sent its of­fense out at the Tiger 49. With less than a minute re­main­ing in the first half Dal­ton found pay dirt once again, this time from 10 yards out. Cade Walker kicked his fifth ex­tra­point and Prairie Grove went up big, 35-0, at the half.

Goal Line Stand

The sep­a­ra­tion on the score­board ac­ti­vated the sportsmanship rule and the se­cond half was played with a run­ning clock. The teams ex­changed punts to start the third quar­ter and the Tiger de­fense caused yet an­other Lion punt as the third wore down. Mean­while, Gravette’s de­fense was able to shut down the Tigers of­fense in the third hold­ing them score­less through­out the 12-minute span.

In the fourth, a hand-off from White to Cy Hil­ger at the Gravette 40-yard-line re­sulted in a 55-yard run to the Tiger five. On the se­cond play of the se­ries White moved the ball to within an inch of the goal line and a Lions’ first down. Prairie Grove’s de­fense held the line push­ing Gravette back to the eight. White, on fourth down, elected to keep the ball and man­aged to move it to the two giv­ing pos­ses­sion to Prairie Grove.

“Their quar­ter­back is re­ally hard to guard,” Ab­shier said. “He can scoot, he can make you miss. Their full­back No. 42 (Colton Grimes, 5-10, 215 pound se­nior) too, is a good heavy run­ner. We kept them out of the end zone. They had four downs to get it in from the one-inch line. It was a ter­rific goal line stand to keep them out of the end zone. That’s got to be a mo­men­tum killer.”

Long Run

Prairie Grove sent the se­cond team of­fense out with a mis­sion to move the ball away from the shadow of their own goal line. They ac­com­plished that and much more. On first down, Foster Lay­man ran for six yards. On the next play Grant broke free and the sopho­more showed his speed by go­ing all the way for a 93-yard touch­down run. With the P.A.T. kick tacked on Prairie Grove led 42-0, which be­came the fi­nal score.

“He has good speed, he’s been play­ing cor­ner­back for us a lot,” Ab­shier said. “He had some juice. He could go.”

With the vic­tory Prairie Grove im­proves to 3-2 over­all and 2-0 in con­fer­ence play; while Gravette falls to 0-5, 0-2 4A-1.

PRAIRIE GROVE 42, GRAVETTE 0

Gravette 0 0 0 0 — 0 P. Grove 14 21 0 7 — 42

FIRST QUAR­TER

Prairie Grove — Ja­cob Watson 87yard kick­off re­turn (Cade Walker kick).

Prairie Grove — Lane Dal­ton 8-yard run (Cade Walker kick).

SE­COND QUAR­TER

Prairie Grove — Gar­rett Heltmes 88yard run (Cade Walker kick). Prairie Grove — Lane Dal­ton 15yard run (Cade Walker kick). Prairie Grove — Lane Dal­ton 10yard run (Cade Walker kick).

FOURTH QUAR­TER

Prairie Grove — Cade Grant 93-yard run (Cade Walker kick).

RANDY MOLL NWA NEWS­PA­PERS

Prairie Grove se­nior Ja­cob Watson took a lat­eral from Jack­son Sorters and re­turned the open­ing kick­off 87 yards for a touch­down to be­gin the Tigers’ 42-0 rout of Gravette Fri­day. Prairie Grove had three scor­ing plays of bet­ter than 85 yards dur­ing the con­test.

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