The Blackhawks are back in the 4A state playoff semifinals after fighting off a spirited challenge from Booneville's Bearcats to take a 22-19 quarterfinal road victory.
"This game had so many big plays, especially in the fourth quarter," head coach Stephen Neal said. "A key third down pass from Jakota Sainsbury to Hayden Holtgrewe and a tremendous third down, 14-yard run by Drew Winn late in the game kept the ball away from the Bearcats, and before that, a huge quarterback sack by Luis Reyes on fourth down deep in our territory prevented Booneville from having the chance to go ahead."
Pea Ridge Blackhawks
7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1
"Things started out badly, having three straight turnovers to start the game," Neal said, "but we bounced back."
The 'Hawks kicked off to start the game and the defense held, forcing the Bearcats to punt on their first possession. Things went south quickly when the 'Cats intercepted a pass in the red zone, leading to a quick touchdown for Booneville and a 7-0 lead. A fumble/turnover by the 'Hawks on their next possession gave the hosts another chance to score but the defense rose up to snuff out a fourth down pass on the 'Hawk 32.
Three plays later, the Blackhawks coughed it up again and the Bearcats didn't waste the opportunity. Booneville's second touchdown was at the 11:11 mark in the second period. The kick failed; Booneville had a 13-0 lead.
The 'Hawks couldn't get much going on their next possession, though a terrible spot on a Sainsbury to Holtgrewe pass might have gotten the 'Hawks a first down near midfield. A high 37-yard punt by Sainsbury kept the 'Cats from trying a return and it pushed them back to their own 23.
After Booneville got a first down on the 'Cat 34, the 'Hawk defense buckled down and stopped the short drive. A quarterback sack of the Booneville signal caller forced the hosts into a fourth and 7 on their own 37, with the 'Cats electing to punt. The play that began the 'Hawks' comeback occurred when the punt was blocked giving the guests excellent field position on the Booneville 18.
Senior speedster Winn ran twice for 10 yards and a first down on the Booneville 8, and a first down play saw him move down to the 4-yard line. A flag was thrown after the play, resulting in the ball being placed back to the 'Hawk 24. A Sainsbury to Holtgrewe pass netted 15 yards to the 9, and Winn bulled his way for 5 more to the 4. The earlier penalty didn't reset the downs, so the 'Hawks faced a fourth and 4 from the 4, and the 'Hawks brought on Reyes to try a field goal. The 'Cats correctly figured a fake kick was going down, so the play was snuffed out on the 'Cat 7.
Booneville managed to get out of the hole, running for two first downs to get to the 'Cat 29. The 'Hawks then continued their comeback, throwing a Booneville rusher for a 2-yard loss on first down. A flood of 'Hawk tacklers were swarming over the Bearcats, with one or more resorting to holding to slow the attack. A referee saw it, however, netting the 'Cats a 10-yard penalty. The next play saw the 'Hawks swallow up the Booneville ball carrier for a 5-yard loss, pushing the home team into a fourth and 24 situation. The following punt gave the 'Hawks a first down near midfield at their own 46.
Though only 1:19 was left in the half, it proved to be more than enough time for the 'Hawks to get on the scoreboard. It was an all-air attack, with Sainsbury connecting on four straight passes to get into the end zone. Winn took a short pass and turned it into big yardage, picking up 16 yards to the 'Cat 38. A pass to Holtgrewe picked up 15 more yards and a first down on the 23. A quick pass on the side netted 4 more yards, and the next pass was to Holtgrewe inside the 10, and the talented receiver outmanuevered the defense into the end zone. Blackhawk Evan Green booted the PAT to cut the deficit to 13-7 headed into intermission.
The 'Hawks received the second half kickoff, and the boys from the Ridge fed the 'Cats a big helping of Winn with a dash of Jordan Witcher to take the lead in two minutes. Winn reeled off runs of 7, 8 and 8 yards to push the ball into Bearcat territory at the 42. A long pass to a jumping Witcher was caught on the Booneville 14 to gain 28 yards. Winn motored around the 'Cats to tie the score at 13-13 on the next play. Green's kick gave the 'Hawks their first lead with 9:57 left in the third quarter.
After the kickoff, the Bearcats had initial success moving the ball upfield to their own 43. Two plays later saw them gain but a yard, so they gambled on a pass across midfield. Blackhawk Carson Rhine made a sensational leaping interception to stop the drive. The Bearcats were determined to avoid a repeat of the last Pea Ridge/Booneville battle that saw the 'Hawks shut them out in the second half. They did manage to force another Blackhawk punt, and the first five plays of their possession saw them drive to the 'Hawk 34. The Pea Ridge defense led by Tristan Brewer resulted in two straight sacks of the quarterback, forcing a third and 16 on the 40. Forced to throw, the Bearcat quarterback executed a perfect pass to a well covered receiver on the 'Hawk 6. The next play saw Booneville ram it through for the go-ahead score. The 2-point conversion attempt was stuffed by the 'Hawks with Booneville assuming a 19-14 lead with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
Sensing it was do or die time, the 'Hawks got to work. Rhine alertly jumped on the pigskin on the 'Hawk 44 to set the stage for the winning drive.
Winn went to work, picking up 32 yards with several carries to get the 'Hawks into scoring position at the Bearcat 24. Two plays later saw the 'Hawks in jepoardy with a third and 14 from the 28. Sainsbury's pass to a double-covered Holtgrewe was just enough to give the 'Hawks another set of downs. With a first down on the Bearcat 12, all it took was three runs by Winn and the 'Hawks were back into the lead, 20-19. Winn then ran in the 2-point conversion to lead 22-19 with 10:10 left in the game.
Booneville, the champions of the 4-4A, weren't going to go down without a fight as they started from their own 28 and despite a fumble and penalty, moved down the field into 'Hawk territory at the 38. Two rushes netted 7 more yards but the third and 2 call was blown up by the 'Hawk defense resulting in a 2-yard loss. Going for it on fourth and 4 with less than 5 minutes left in the game, Reyes silenced the raucous Booneville crowd by hanging a 3-yard loss on the 'Cat ball carrier to get the ball back.
With a great sense of urgency to get the ball back, the Booneville line forced negative yardage plays on the 'Hawks first two runs. Saddled with a third and 12, Sainsbury and Holtgrewe brought the visitors to their feet with a completed pass in traffic to extend the drive with a first down on the 'Hawk 46. Runs by Winn and Robby Pickthal gained 7 yards but another third down play loomed with a third and 3 on the Bobcat 49. As he has down so often in his career, Winn got the ball next, ran up the middle bowling over and dragging Bearcat defenders upfield 14 yards with him. The run gave the 'Hawks a lot more breathing room on the Bearcat 34 with 3 minutes left to play.
Two plays produced only a couple of yards so the 'Hawks were once again faced with a critical third down and long play. To no one's surprise, Winn's number was called and he responded with a 21-yard dash to the Bearcat 11-yard line with just over a minute left. With new set of downs and with Booneville already having exhausted their timeouts, coach Neal was content with letting the clock run out.
The victory improved the 'Hawks record to 12-1 on the season while dropping Booneville's to 10-2. Both of the Bearcat losses were to Pea Ridge. Interestingly enough, the 'Hawks gave both Booneville and Hamburg losses to start and end their seasons in 2017.
Winn led the offense with 167 yards on 33 carries, scoring two of the three touchdowns as well as a 2-point conversion. The last score, the PAT, put Winn on top of the state scoring charts with 188 points, breaking the tie he had with Gravette's Austin O'Brien who has 186.
Sainsbury was nine of 17 for 135 yards and a touchdown. His top target for the evening was Holtgrewe who gathered in seven passes for 84 yards. Winn caught two for 27 yards with Witcher having one catch for 28.
Now the 'Hawks are coming home for the last time in 2017 as they host 7-4A power Arkadelphia. The runner-up in their conference to the state's No. 1 team Little Rock Robinson, the Badgers earned their trip to Pea Ridge with a 57-7 drubbing of Ashdown last week. Arkadelphia came to Pea Ridge as the opening round competition in the 2016 playoffs with the 'Hawks escaping with a narrow 30-24 victory, their toughest game of the playoffs before the state final.Sports on 11/29/2017
Print Headline: Blackhawks bounce Bearcats 22-19