Junior Tigers Outlast Elkins, 34-26, Oct. 18
PRAIRIE GROVE — Despite playing without star halfback Ethan Miller, Prairie Grove’s offense showed no sign of slowing down in outscoring Elkins 34-26 in a game that went down to the wire.
“That was a big one for us, our guys stepped up. Kameron Gosnell came in and ran at halfback and did a good job,” said Prairie Grove head junior high coach John Elder. “Other guys stepped up during the week in practice for him and on defense, Rhett (Marrell) did a good job of taking his spot. We had guys step up and take his spot, and that helped a lot. That was good.”
Asher Sam, who Elder said has really come on this year, had some big runs to pick up critical first downs to keep drives alive. Gosnell scored on a 4-yard sweep in the first half.
The Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, contest fit the “mustwin” category — that is, if the junior Tigers were interested in earning a shot at the conference championship that will pit the top teams from a division that includes Prairie Grove, Elkins, Gentry, Gravette and Lincoln with Berryville, Green Forest, Huntsville, Pea Ridge and Shiloh Christian also lumped in. The two teams, which finish first on each side of the league, earned the right to play for the 4A-1 league title in week 10.
Green Forest, which has struggled to compete at the varsity level, has a tough junior high squad winning its first six games of the season, including a 32-0 road win at Elkins last week, the third consecutive shutout posted by the Green Forest junior Tigers. Green Forest defeated Berryville 30-0, Huntsville 22-0, and West Fork 42-14. They have a capable quarterback in Devon DiVall and a trio of runners in Bryan Soto, Barrett Phillips and Jake Lopez. Phillips and Soto can also catch the ball. Against Berryville, Green Forest pulled off a double-pass with Ashton Grunwald throwing to Phillips for 70 yards on the first play of the game.
Elkins demonstrated a proficiency for passing and catching the football completing a number of deep throws. Elkins scored on a 2-yard quarterback sneak after a big catch was made to get the Elks close.
“They’re throwing the ball well,” said assistant coach Nike Paroubek. “They caught our cornerbacks sleeping a couple of times.”
Prairie Grove countered with some play-action passes of its own with quarterback Paytin Higgins throwing a pair of long first half touchdown passes, one of better than 50 yards and other of a 40-yard variety, to Landon Semrad.
“They were up to stop the run big time and sometimes when teams do that, the play-action pass opens up big and it did tonight,” Elder said.
Prairie Grove led 21-14 at halftime with Elkins receiving the second half kickoff. The Elks got a good runback and started from their own 37. Elkins scored on fourth-and-six from the junior Tiger 46 with Elkins quarterback Bernard finding Rhoda for the score. A high snap messed up the 2-point conversion attempt, but Elkins was within, 21-20.
Marrell recovered an onside kick giving Prairie Grove good field possession at its own 41. Gosnell carried the ball for 24 and 20 yards. Sam gained 7 inside and Higgins finished off the drive by cutting inside on a 4-yard quarterback keeper to find paydirt. The holder bobbled the snap and attempted a pass that was intercepted by Elkins foiling the extra-point leaving Prairie Grove with a 27-20 lead.
That score remained the margin as the fourth quarter began. The teams traded turnovers on downs and Elkins capitalized on a short field marching 51 yards in 5 plays to punch the ball in for a touchdown on another quarterback sneak. Davis Stephens sniffed out a reverse on the conversion attempt preserving a 27-26 lead for Prairie Grove with 5:36 left in the contest.
On second and 10, Higgins threw on target to Semrad breaking alone in the secondary. He outran all 11 men on the field for Elkins to complete a 77-yard touchdown pass play. Higgins kicked the point-after and Prairie Grove extended the lead to 34-28 at the 5:27 mark.
Elkins had plenty of time and they made a game of it converting two third-downs despite sacks by Erick Bartholomew, and Cooper Singleton. Elkins completed a 49-yard pass to the junior Tiger 11 with 1:36 remaining. Ryder Orr and John King combined for a sack, then the junior Tigers shut the gate on quarterback keeper bringing up second-and-13 for Elkins from Prairie Grove’s 16. Higgins tackled a receiver after a 6-yard gain bringing up fourth-and-9. Semrad batted down a pass to end the threat.
“Payton made some good tackles coming downhill from the safety spot,” Elder said. “Erick Bartholomew did well on that, (got to) keep him going on the line there. He’s doing a good job.”
Prairie Grove halfback Kameron Gosnell accelerates downfield after turning the corner. Gosnell scored a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the first half and had carries of 24 and 20 yards during a key late-game drive. Prairie Grove held off Elkins, 34-26, on Oct. 18.