After a week in which there were only two games among the 24 match ups in 4A that could be considered upsets, the upcoming playoffs have fallen into place.
One of those upsets was the 24-19 shocker that Gravette pulled over Shiloh, breaking Shiloh's winning streak over the Lions that dates back to 2002. Shiloh was planning to upset the Blackhawks this Friday and grab the higher seed No. 2 instead of the No. 3 seed they have been saddled with the past two seasons.
The Gravette/Shiloh battle was a defensive struggle, with neither team scoring offensively in the first half. The privateers managed to block a Gravette punt just before halftime and run it in to grab a 7-0 halftime lead. With Austin O'Brien as their main weapon as a rusher, receiver and a quarterback in the second half, the Lions scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-7 lead going into the final three minutes of the contest.
Shiloh finally started clicking in the game's final moments, scoring a touchdown, successfully executing an onside kick, then scoring again to cut the lead to 5. However, the Lions covered the second onside kick, then ran out the clock for the victory.
The upshot of the big Lion victory was to put Gravette on the track to earn the third seed and lower the private school boys to the fourth seed. This would give Gravette a first round home game and force Shiloh to be on the road throughout the playoffs.
The Blackhawks' win Friday over Huntsville gave Pea Ridge the No. 1 seed from the 1-4A regardless of what happens when they play at Shiloh Friday. Should Gentry pull an upset over Gravette this Friday, this scenario would flip the seeds back to where they were before the Lion upset. The odds of a Gentry victory look rather long at this point and the Blackhawks shouldn't be looking past Shiloh, hoping to add to their four-game winning streak over their longtime rivals.
So, if the 'Hawks take care of business Friday, the playoffs as far as the members of the 1-4A conference are concerned, would look like this.
4A Playoffs first round
The Blackhawks will host 32nd-ranked Waldron who are almost certainly going to finish as the fifth seed in the 4-4A district. The two teams have never met. The winner of that first-round game will likely play either Hamburg or Dumas from the 8-4A district. The 'Hawks whipped Hamburg in the playoffs last year, then beat them again this year in the Hootens Classic to start the 2017 season.
Prairie Grove, the No. 6 ranked team, will play host to the 4-4A's Pottsville Apaches. Pottsville is ranked No. 24 and doesn't have one of their usually strong teams this season, having been blown out by Shiloh back in August.
If No. 13 Gravette is successful in hanging onto their third seed, they will host a dangerous 17th-ranked Heber Spring Panther team. The Panthers handed Batesville Southside their only loss of the season. Southside is the No. 1 seed from the 2-4A.
No. 10 Shiloh will probably be on the road the first week, going to No. 9 Stuttgart. The Ricebirds, a longtime 4A power, will have a speed advantage over the Springdale boys. Stuttgart had a tough early schedule and got their losses in early, but rallied to gain the second seed from the 2-4A district. Should Shiloh win they will probably have the honor of playing Prairie Grove again on the road. They lost to the Tigers 35-21 earlier this year.
Finally, the 31st-ranked Gentry Pioneers will have to travel to No. 11 Batesville to take on the Southerners who are hosting their first ever playoff game. The school, located just south of Batesville in an unincorporated area of Independence County, has been playing football just 11 years and saw their team post their first winning record ever last season. The junior dominated team is on the rise in Arkansas.
All five teams of the 1-4A have a chance to get into the second round. The teams from the 7-4A also have an opportunity to get five teams into the second round. Teams from the 2-4A and 3-4A could be decimated in first round action, with the not-so-strong 8-4A having only defending champion Warren to likely still be playing past the first to rounds.
The playoffs represent a new season in a way, as records go out the window. Upsets will be recorded and teams on the rise will assert themselves. It ought to be a fun ride with the Blackhawks looking to get back to Little Rock and finish their quest.
The current senior Class of 2018 has posted a 33-5 record over their three seasons in competition. They are closing on on the schools' all time most winning class record of 34-6 posted by the class of 2017 after last year. Should they make it past the second round, they will set a record that will be very hard for future classes to match.
Democrat-Gazette 4A Poll
1. Pea Ridge^9-0
4. Prairie Grove^8-1
Hooten's 4A poll
1. Warren ^8-1
2. Pea Ridge^9-0
5. Prairie Grove^8-1
MaxPreps/CBS 4A poll
4. Pea Ridge^9-0
6. Prairie Grove^8-1
17. Heber Springs^6-3
19. Fountain Lake^4-5
Editor's note: John McGee is an award-winning columnist and sports writer. He is the art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, coaches elementary track and writes a regular sports column for The Times. The opinions expressed are those of the author. He can be contacted through The Times at email@example.com.Sports on 11/01/2017
Print Headline: Football playoffs nearly set