Now it be­gins — 30 teams make it to the 4A play­offs

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

The first three games of the foot­ball sea­son are non­con­fer­ence af­fairs which can serve as a good time to dis­cover your team’s weak­nesses and con­sider how best to use your avail­able per­son­nel when the games be­gin to mat­ter.

The fourth game of the sea­son starts con­fer­ence play with each game count­ing to­wards each team’s drive to qual­ify for the state play­offs with as high a rank­ing as pos­si­ble. These games are now over and 30 of the state’s 48 teams have made it into the 2018 4A state play­offs.

For the fifth straight year, the Black­hawks have taken a top two seed into the play­offs. The ’Hawks were No. 1 in 2014 and again last year, hav­ing taken the sec­ond seed in 2015, 2016, and again this year. Shiloh took this year’s top seed, which they have not done since 2010. As a mat­ter of fact, they have not fin­ished higher than third since 2010 un­til this sea­son.

Lin­coln was the sur­prise third place fin­isher, beat­ing Prairie Grove 51-42 in a score fest last week. The Tigers fin­ished fourth, their low­est seed­ing since the year 2000. Mean­while, Gen­try took the fi­nal play­off spot with a 26-0 dom­i­na­tion of Gravette last week. Though it had no play­off con­sid­er­a­tions at stake, Ber­ryville beat county ri­val Green For­est 43-6 in the other league game. Most note­wor­thy was the fact that Green For­est ac­tu­ally scored. They had not scored a sin­gle point in their con­fer­ence sched­ule un­til the last half of their last game. Though this year was a low point in Green For­est foot­ball his­tory, at least their play­ers stuck it out and fin­ished the sea­son.

Pea Ridge will be host­ing a much im­proved Cen­tral High School of West He­lena. The Cougars fin­ished fourth in the 4A-8 District but are com­ing off a 60-24 thrash­ing of War­ren last week. War­ren, the No. 1 ranked team go­ing into last week’s game, lost their MVP when Arkansas signee Trey­lon Burks was in­jured and forced to un­dergo sea­son end­ing knee surgery.

The 11th ranked Cougars have never played No. 16 Pea Ridge and are pretty dis­tant to north­west Arkansas. They are 335 miles from Pea Ridge and West He­lena is ac­tu­ally far­ther away than Mem­phis. It is prob­a­bly a six or seven hour bus ride at best.

The Cougars’ of­fense is pretty much wrapped up in 5’10”, 179 pound Ar­monie Cal­houn. The run­ning back/quar­ter­back/re­ceiver has 1,296 yards rush­ing, 515 yards pass­ing, 117 yards re­ceiv­ing, 31 yards punt re­turn­ing, and 181 yards in kick­off re­turns. He also has two in­ter­cep­tions play­ing de­fense. He has even kicked five PATs as well as run­ning five in.

The sta­tis­tics tell us that the Cougars are a run first team, and the quar­ter­back will do 75 per­cent of that. In­ter­est­ingly, they have more than 20 play­ers who have recorded rush­ing yards in a game this sea­son, but none to any great amount out­side Cal­houn.

What makes the fast elu­sive Cougar quar­ter­back ef­fec­tive is the mas­sive of­fen­sive line he runs be­hind. They have 10 play­ers who tip the scales north of 260 pounds, and “only” six who weigh around 240. Both nose guards on their ros­ter weigh in at 340.

Though the game is in Pea Ridge in light of the seed­ings (the higher seed al­ways hosts), the odds mak­ers make West He­lena the slight fa­vorite. Though they put the hurt on War­ren last week, War­ren had al­ready wrapped up the No. 1 seed and were deal­ing with some in­jury prob­lems so the Coogs may not have got­ten the ’Jacks best game. Still, War­ren is a good team no mat­ter who they put out there. They are known for their depth.

If the ’Hawks can get through that mas­sive of­fen­sive Cougar line and dis­rupt the quar­ter­back, the odds of a Black­hawk vic­tory will in­crease greatly. The two games Cen­tral lost this year was a di­rect re­sult of that very thing. Du­mas and Ham­burg limited Cal­houn and won those games.

Should Pea Ridge get past this first round hur­dle, they will take on the sur­vivor of the Du­mas/ Batesville South­side game. Du­mas lost only to War­ren this year and is ranked No. 6 in the state. South­side is No. 21 with a 6-4 record. If Du­mas and Pea Ridge win, the ’Hawks will take the long trip south to Du­mas in south­east Arkansas, not all that far from Louisiana or Mis­sis­sippi.

The win­ner of these first two rounds will take on the sur­vivor of No. 3 River­crest (last year’s 3A state cham­pion), No. 14 He­ber Springs, No. 17 Foun­tain Lake and No. 31 Poc­a­hon­tas. If ei­ther River­crest or He­ber Springs wins out, that team will host the quar­ter­fi­nal game from the Pea Ridge sec­tion of the brack­ets. River­crest is lo­cated in Wil­son, along­side the Mis­sis­sippi River.

Mean­while, Shiloh is on the op­po­site side of the bracket, as they host the 4-6 Star City Bull­dogs. Star City is ranked No. 25 while Shiloh is still in at No. 2. Shiloh will likely win and prob­a­bly host in the next round No. 22 Mena which hosts No. 35 Gen­try in the first round.

While Shiloh is in line to host the quar­ter­fi­nals should they win the first two games, they will be en­ter­tain­ing ei­ther No. 7 Nashville or No. 4 Baux­ite.

Nashville played Baux­ite last week and Scrap­pers won in over­time. Both teams fin­ished 5-2 in the tough 4A-7 District with Baux­ite ac­tu­ally sit­ting atop the state rank­ings for a time. Who­ever sur­vives that re­match will be a test for the Spring­dale boys.

No. 24 Lin­coln got a third seed but wound up on the road, go­ing to No. 15 Ham­burg. Ham­burg trav­eled to Pea Ridge the last two play­offs with the ’Hawks end­ing their sea­son each time. The bad thing for the win­ner of this game is hav­ing to travel to Lit­tle Rock

TIMES pho­to­graph by An­nette Beard

Se­nior High cheer­lead­ers in­clude se­niors Shelby Dun­lap, Mac France, Cal­lie Ketcher, Maken­zie Shirley, Ni­cole Turner and Lizzy Williams; ju­niors Pey­ton An­der­son, Chloe Hen­son, Tessa Kel­ley, Lind­say Law, Ken­nadi Mar­ler, Emma Scholtes, Jami­son Toms and Zach Woods; and sopho­mores Ali­son Heitt, Nate Gra­ham and Ad­die Rhine. Coach is Court­ney Hurst. Cap­tains are Miss Shirley and Miss Turner. Man­agers are Re­bekah Kuri­at­nyk and McKen­zie Kling­man. Mas­cot is se­nior Devin Mathis.

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