KICKOFF RETURN IGNITES PRAIRIE GROVE
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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
Prairie Grove — Jacob Watson 87yard kickoff return (Cade Walker kick).
Prairie Grove — Lane Dalton 8-yard run (Cade Walker kick).
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).
Prairie Grove — Cade Grant 93-yard run (Cade Walker kick).
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.