PRAIRIE GROVE — Pea Ridge exploited Prairie Grove’s banged-up defense much of the game Friday. But in a crunch the Tigers’ defense spearheaded a late comeback.
Linbacker Brandon Nodier didn’t play until the final two minutes but he was in on a stop that forced a fumble that Connor West returned 69 yards for a touchdown with 24 seconds left to lift the Tigers to a 35-28 victory at Tiger Stadium.
Nodier, who was nursing an ankle injury, entered the game after Eli Lopez was shaken up on a play with less than two minutes remaining.
The Blackhawks (0-8, 0-5 4A-1 Conference) reached the 31 with about 30 seconds left when quarterback Seth Brumley was stripped on a keeper to the right side of the line. West came out of the pile with the football and outran the Blackhawks in front of the Pea Ridge bench to the end zone.
“If we could keep from playing (Nodier) we weren’t going to play him at all,” Prairie Grove Coach Danny Abshier said. “And when we lost Eli who was replacing Nodier, Nodier was more healthy than Eli. We were down three linebackers.
“I asked Nodier what did he think. He said, ‘I think I can go.’ “
Prairie Grove (8-0, 5-0) lost two fumbles and threw an interception. Both fumbles were costly.
The first came with 27 seconds left in the first half when Jacob Storlie fumbled at the 1, helping the Blackhawks preserve a 14-14 tie at halftime.
The second was another Storlie fumble on the first play of the second half, leading to a 24-yard touchdown pass from Brumley to Jacob Rose.
“(Rose) can catch the ball,” Pea Ridge Coach Tony Travis said. “We did a little more (passing) tonight because they’re so strong against the run.
“I thought we had a good plan and I thought we executed it tonight.”
Rose caught six passes for 137 yards an two touchdowns.
Despite the turnovers, Storlie was key to the Tigers’ success on both sides of the ball. He rushed for 111 yards and three touchdowns, passed for 97 and broke up three passes while primarily defending Rose.
His defense against Rose on a third-down pass forced a punt with six minutes remaining. The Tigers drove 62 yards with J.D. Speed powering in from the three to forge a 28-28 tie with 2:12 remaining.
“We took Pea Ridge a little light, it looked to me,” Abshier said. “Pea Ridge is on the bottom of the standings and we’re on the top so all we’ve got to do is show up? That’s what I’m accusing us of.”
w Besides Nodier, the Tigers were also without running back Logan Bartholomew, who watched the game from the sideline on crutches.
• Prairie Grove gained 479 yards, including 382 on the ground. Speed led the rushing attack with 148 yards on 16 carries. Shane Ivy had 108 yards and two touchdowns as the Blackhawks gained 150 on the ground. They finished with 386 yards total offense.
• In addition to his long fumble return for a touchdown, West led the Tigers’ defense with eight tackles, including two for six yards in losses.
Prairie Grove celebrated senior night Friday and finishes the regular season with games at Gentry and Gravette. Pea Ridge faces Farmington at home next week.
HOW THEY SCORED
HOW THEY SCORED
Prairie Grove 35, Pea Ridge 28
PR — Shane Ivy 54 run (kick failed), 11:26
PG — Jacob Storlie 18 run (Clement Gautrean kick), 9:04
PR — Logan Rose 18 pass from Seth Brumley (Logan Rose pass from Seth Brumley), 11:14
PG — Jacob Storlie 1 run (Clement Gautrean kick), 8:09
PR — Logan Rose 24 pass from Seth Brumley (Will Klein kick), 9:36
PG — Jacob Storlie 56 run (Clement Gautrean kick), 6:04
PR — Shane Ivy 6 run (Will Klein kick), 2:59
PG — J.D. Speed 3 run (Clement Gautrean kick), 2:12
PG — Connor West 69 fumble return (Clement Gautrean kick), 0:24