PEA RIDGE West Fork used superior speed in the open field to erase the Blackhawks early lead and go on to post a 28-7 victory in the Pea Ridge home opener.
"Make no mistake, West Fork is a very good team," coach Tony Travis said after the game. "They are the defending champs of the 4A-4 District. We didn't play to our potential, shooting ourselves in the foot numerous times with blown assignments and mental errors. These are things you just can't do if you want to beat a good team."
The 'Hawks looked prepped to have a good evening before a large home crowd as they took the opening kickoff and struck paydirt on nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead. Senior Tyler Ramsey electified 'Hawk fans as he led the charge, gaining over 100 yards for the second week in a row. In the 'Hawks' first possession, Ramsey took five consecutive handoffs for five consecutive first downs on runs of 13, 11, 11, 13 and 15 yards. The runs gavePea Ridge a first down on the West Fork six-yard line. Two more carries by Ramsey pushed the 'Hawks down to the oneyard line where Pea Ridge crossed up the Tigers by sending Nathan Norris into the end zone for the score. Ethan Rhine split the uprights for a 7-0 lead with 8:02 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the 'Hawk defender hit the return man so hard, it jarred the ball loose where West Fork covered it five yards behind the initial contact. A 15-yard pass on third down gave the Tigers good field position on the 'Hawk 40 but a swarming defense and an outstanding defensive play by Rhine threw a Tiger pitch man for a three-yard loss, forcing a punt.
It looked like more of the same for the 'Hawks as Ramsey cut loose for 17 yards on first down with Rhine passing to Bo Rylee for 13 more yards to put the ball square on the 50-yard line. However, a fumble and a run for lost yardage forced the 'Hawks to punt the ball back to West Fork, with Rhine booming a 43-yarder to push West Forkback to their own 18-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, no one covered the quarterback, Isaac Muggy, on first down and the speedy signal caller cranked it into overdrive outrun the hosts to the end zone to help tie the score.
The successful PAT knotted the game at 7-7 with 1: left in the quarter.
The Blackhawks seemed undaunted by the turn of events as Rhine after almost being sacked behind the line of scrimmage, broke loose to scamper 14 yards on the first play in the possession. Norris kept the pressure up as he rambled for 17 yards to cross into Tiger territory the West Fork 45. On third and 5, Ramsey took a pitch left to rush for 11 yards and a first down on the West Fork 22 with the 'Hawks looking to retake the lead.
The wheels came off the 'Hawk drive in a big way as they fumbled the ball four times in succession, losing 13 yards to force a turnover on downs to the Tigers. Pea Ridge kept up the pressure however, and got the ball back after six Tiger plays. West Fork managed a first down before a huge defensive playby Joey Beauchamp netted a six-yard loss on a quarterback sack, paving the way for a Tiger punt. On second down, Rhine rolled left, picking up 16 yards to the 'Hawk 38. Andrew Woolard had a seven-yard run to near midfield, and the 'Hawks went for it on fourth and 1 from their own 48. The 'Hawks seventh fumble of the game gave the ball to West Fork.
The 'Hawks looked like they would make a great sack on second down when they caught the Tiger ball carrier deep behind the line. They could not bring him down as he shook off numerous tackles to gain 14 yards to the 'Hawk 33. A pass interference penalty but the ball on the 'Hawk 15 and two plays later the Tigers were in the end zone. With 1:54 left in the half, the good PAT kick by West Fork gave the visitors a 14-7 lead.
Woolard cut loose for runs of 11 and 6 yards to give the 'Hawks possession inside West Fork territory before the end of the half but a bad snap led to the Hawk's eighth fumble and a big loss to end the half.
West Fork came out of the half fired up as theyhad rushes of 8, 18, 3 and 30 to get a first down on the 'Hawk 14. The 'Hawks derailed the drive by knocking the ball loose, recovering it on the 14-yard line to seemingly quash the threat. However, the 'Hawks could only gain six yards on three carries, forcing a punt. On first down from the 'Hawk 41, the Tiger tailback bumped and slithered his way past a host of 'Hawk tacklers to dash to the end zone with 7:05 left in the third period. The kick was again good to give the Tigers a commanding 21-7 lead.
A penalty on the Tigers and runs by Rhine and Ramsey kept the 'Hawks' hopes alive, gaining first down in Tiger territory on the 37. A great 12-yard sneak by the quarterback Rhine gained a first down on the West Fork 25. A big quarterback sack by the Tigers put a stop to the threat with the 'Hawks losing possession on downs.
The Tigers then started a drive that drove them to inside the 'Hawk red zone, but an incomplete fourth down pass gave the ball over to the 'Hawks on the 18. The home boys then lost two yards on threeruns and an incomplete pass, with an ensuing shanked punt giving West Fork great positioning on the 'Hawk 38.
The Tigers then kept it on the ground, griding out the necessary yardage on six plays to score for the fourth time. The successful point after attempt was good to inflate the lead to 28-7 with 4:42 left in the game. Pea Ridge did manage to cross into Tiger territory on Ramsey runs and 14-yard completion from Rhine to Ricardo Schneider but the clock ran out before the 'Hawks could mount a threat.
"We are going to be a competitive football team," coach Travis said, "but we have to me more consistent. We lost our focus in the second half and it cost us. We have seen good improvement from the time we opened camp to our first scrimmage at Cedarville and we saw good improvement from the Cedarville game to the Elkins game. However, we lost our momentum along the way tonight but we are going to get it back beginning Monday. We are going to find out how bad we want to play."
Sports, Pages 9 on 09/16/2009