The Blackhawk boys keep inching up the polls, climbing one spot to No. 9 this week after their 10th win in succession as they claimed an outright 4A-1 West championship. The boys Top 10 remained mainly intact with the exceptions of Pea Ridge trading places with Morrilton, the top team in the 4A-4 and with eStem and Arkdelphia who flipped spots in the No. 6 and No. 8 positions.
The girls' ranking remained steady at No. 8 as they move through a rough patch in their season. Playing in the toughest league in the state, maybe the toughest of all time, the Hawks are 17-0 against teams not in the 4A-1, having suffered their lone non-conference loss to Berryville in the Green Forest Tournament.
Next week, the girls will likely have to beat Berryville for the chance to extend their season. Almost certainly a No. 3 seed for the 4A-1 District Tournament, they will probably play Shiloh in the first round, facing Berryville in the quarterfinals. Farmington will then await the winner of that game to play for a spot in the championship round.
The boys have already advanced to the district semifinals via their divisional championship. It is exceedingly hard to predict, as while the Pea Ridge Blackhawks have been rolling through the conference schedule unscathed, the other members of the league have been surprising and upsetting each other with no clear second best team presenting itself. Surprisingly, Shiloh is the current leader in the East.
The improving economy over the past few years has seen the "Help Wanted" signs become a regular thing as more people are needed to keep the economy moving forward by doing work in the myriad businesses and concerns that need additional staff.
One help wanted sign you won't see but is there, nonetheless, is the one that advertises for more men and women to enter the field of high school sports officiating.
Looking over state reports from across the country, there is a growing dearth of qualified, experienced referees to help run the high school school sporting programs, particularly high school football and basketball.
A lot of eastern states have reported declines in the numbers of referees in their referee pool by between 8% and 15% for the past several years, and the problem is accelerating.
In Kansas, the average age for referees is 60. In Missouri, 60% of their refs are in their late 50s or early 60s. Only 10% of Missouris refs are in their 30s.
A lot of groups have wondered why the steady decline in the number of qualified referees when the population is steadily going up. Pay for referees averages in some places well above $50 an hour, and no groups have learned that pay is even a part of the issue.
For my part, I have seen some really peculiar refereeing this past basketball season, and I have not been to that many games.
This past week at home, a parent was tossed out of a game because he was "loud." I have seen parents tossed for vulgar or obscene language, or trying to interfere in a game, but I have never witnessed a referee exercised so much by a loud fan that he felt the need to eject him.
This same referee this past week called fouls when he was in no position to make that call. There was one call that was so egregrious that another official had to come in to overrule him.
I really have not seen officials act in what I would call a biased way, though I have seen them make inconceivable rulings many times. In two consecutive football games this past season, two lateral (throwing backward) passes were ruled incomplete when the rule has always been that a backwards pass is a live ball, caught or not.
If you notice, the refs that you might see at these games have their share of gray hair. Not that this is a disqualifier, but sports such as football or basketball needs refs with keen vision and the ability to move up and down the playing field with the players. A New Jersey sports official stated that the ideal referee age is about 30.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association did a study to find out why new refs aren't coming into the field, something that is a relatively new phenomena. They found that fans have become much aggressive over the past few years as society as a whole has turned away from punishing or even even trying to correct bad behavior in public. There have been many stories across the U.S. of parents or relatives storming the field to attack coaches or refs when they perceive injustice to their child.
With a shrinking pool of referees and with a society more aggressive in voicing their opinions, sometimes physically, these things could turn toxic in places not usually used to seeing them.
Refs should not be listening to fans, but watching the game, granted. Fans need to realize that families are there and fan behavior, for good or ill, could be examples for others to follow.
The refs of 2020 are generally not your father's refs. One of the refs last Friday, however, was like what I can remember as one of the good ones. He listened to coaches' complaints with a smile, he never gave any indication that anything said from the bleachers was registering with him.
We have overworked refs who are sometimes not all that good at their trade. With the shrinking pool of officials, they are needed so that there can actually be games for students to play. Hopefully, there is a way forward that can improve officiating while not driving off the ones we have.
4A Poll Girls Top 25
Feb. 7, 2020
5. Star City^22-0^-1
8. Pea Ridge^17-7^--
17. Heber Springs^14-7^+5
24. Valley View^9-13^+1
32. Prairie Grove^8-11^+5
4A Poll Boys Top 25
3. Little Rock Mills^18-3^--
4. Little Rock Pulaski^13-4^--
5. Valley View^15-5^--
9. Pea Ridge^16-4^+1
25. Prairie Grove^11-11^+1
Girls NWA Area Top 15 Poll
1. Ft. Smith Northside^19-3
6. Springdale HarBer^15-6
9. Pea Ridge^17-7
12. Rogers Heritage^13-9
14. Van Buren^8-14
Boys NWA Area Top 15 Poll
3. Ft. Smith Northside^16-6
6. Pea Ridge^18-4
8. Siloam Springs^13-8
Standings and polls as of Feb. 9, 2020
4A-1 Conference Standings Girls
4A-1 Conference Standing Boys
4A North Girls
4. Pea Ridge^16-6
4A North Boys
1. Pea Ridge^16-4
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. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through The Times at [email protected]Sports on 02/12/2020
Print Headline: Boys up a spot to No. 9 in state poll; Girls remain No. 8