The Blackhawk varsity football team will finally be playing at home after competing on the road for the first month of the season.
The locals went to Siloam Springs for the pre-season benefit game then traveled to Harrison and then to Maumelle for non-conference action before having last week off. They will open their home stand for 2018 by hosting the Farmington Cardinals.
The grid-iron 'Hawks are working on a four-game winning streak over the 5A Cardinals, using a stout defense to put together the current win record. Pea Ridge has lost the previous 11 straight matches before whipping the Cards by successive scores of 36-0, 26-7, 13-7, and then 24-7 last season.
The Blackhawks admittedly did not play well against Harrison, and came out flat against Maumelle two weeks ago. However, the 'Hawks played extremely well in the second half against Maumelle and finally seemed to find their rhythm.
Farmington defeated Prairie Grove 33-30 in the season's opening game, then they crushed Gravette 40-2 last week.
Two seniors lead the Cardinal offense with similar numbers through two games. Running back Reid Turner (5'10", 180 lbs.) is averaging 80 yards a game with quarterback Eric Hill (5'11", 170 lbs.) racking up 76 yards per game through the air. Another weapon is kick returner Drew Sturgeon who has returned five kickoffs for an average of 32 yards per attempt.
A pair of seniors lead the offense with Dimarie Donovan (5'5", 135 lbs.) averaging 10 tackles a game from his safety position with linebacker Curt Kilgore averaging a little over 10 tackles himself.
In the beat down of Gravette last week, several Lion turnovers aided the Cards in their easy win. I watched some of the game video and the speed advantage of Farmington over Gravette is obvious.
If the 'Hawks can keep their momentum going from the second half of the Maumelle game, keeping the turnovers under control, they will have an excellent chance of keeping their win streak over Farmington alive. A large, supportive crowd at the stadium Friday will go a long way towards helping Coach Stephen Neal's charges obtain their first victory of the 2018 season.
Conference season set to begin
This is the fourth and final week of the pre-conference schedule, and this is the non-conference records of the eight 4A-1 teams to date:
The conference mark is 4-12 overall, but that mark could be a little bit misleading. More than half of the 12 losses were administered by larger classification schools. On the other hand, the four wins logged by conference members were against teams ranked in the bottom of their state classifications, so there is that.
The school with the best record is Lincoln, who crunched Oklahoma teams Westville and Keys by 48-6 and 40-7 counts. Those two schools are ranked at the bottom of the 2A classification in Oklahoma. The Wolves finish their pre-conference schedule by taking on the next to the worst team in the state in 47th Subiaco, so it is likely they will enter the district games undefeated.
Berryville won their game against 3A class 39th-ranked West Fork then lost 21-14 to Huntsville. The other team with a win is Shiloh, who bested 34th-ranked Truman 35-7 in their last game.
The top three teams in the 4A-1 according to MaxPreps before the season began was Prairie Grove, Pea Ridge and Gravette. Those teams are all 0-2. However, all three teams took on tough schedules to prepare them for the conference battles.
Gravette lost 44-7 to Tulsa Casia Hall, the sixth-ranked team in Oklahoma, then they lost to the 5A 15th-ranked Farmington team. Prairie Grove lost to Farmington by 3 then were beaten convincingly by fifth-ranked Dardanelle 35-17. Maybe this might actually be a down year for Prairie Grove. They haven't had one in many a year, and though they lost a ton of talent of talent through graduation, most folks, myself included, always assume they will just reload like their always do. Maybe not this year.
What looks like the two teams destined to finish at the bottom of the league may well be Gentry and Green Forest. The Pioneers were whipped by Dardanelle 38-12 but then were thoroughly beaten by 5A team Huntsville 35-6. Gentry beat the Eagles last year so the turnaround is remarkable.
The undisputed weakest team in the league right now looks to be Green Forest. They are 0-2 against low-ranked teams in the lowest classifications in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Arkansas 2A Yellville beat them 14-7 before Oklahoma 1A Commerce bulldozed them 32-0. Only a dozen boys in Green Forest even worked out this summer, with only a few more joining the crew once school started. Since we play the Tigers late on the schedule, I just hope they have enough players in uniform for the 'Hawks to be able to play them in October.
It seems the better teams in the state loaded up some tough competition in their first three games. Arkadelphia has the toughest strength of schedule rating in all of 4A with a 23.3 rating, with Heber Springs second best with a 22.3 rating with our Blackhawks having the third toughest schedule with a 21.7 rating. All three teams have yet to win in 2018, but somehow I don't think it really bothers the coaching staffs of those schools in the long run.
What really counts is what happens during the conference season and the playoffs. The three games prior to district games don't really count for anything outside poll standings. Arkadelphia is the 4A state defending champion but they are 0-3 against 7A and 6A competition. Though they are 0-3, they are still considered solid contenders for a state final berth in December.
Taking our lumps early may well steel the team for greater success later on. I think the 'Hawks might well be hosting their final regular season game in early November with the winner of that game taking the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
MaxPreps 4A State
Sept. 9, 2018
9. West Helena^2-0
20. Heber Springs^0-2
22. Fountain Lake^2-0
23. Prairie Grove^0-2
24. Pea Ridge^0-2
26. Bald Knob^1-1
27. Harmony Grove^2-0
28. Star City^1-1
33. Central Arkansas^1-1
45. Cave City^0-2
48. Green Forest^0-2
Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. He can be contacted through The Times at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sports on 09/12/2018
Print Headline: Final week before conference play