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story.lead_photo.caption Prairie Grove running back Anthony Johnson (1) tries to escape the grasp of Stuttgart's Kirk Hughes on Friday in Prairie Grove. - Photo by Charlie Kaijo

PRAIRIE GROVE — A sign on the Stuttgart visitors’ side read “Tell your girlfriends you’ll be free next Friday night.”

Sorry, girls, but the Prairie Grove Tigers aren’t done with football yet after defeating Stuttgart 24-14 Friday in a second-round Class 4A state playoff game at Tiger Stadium.

Prairie Grove (11-1) advanced to a third-round game at Warren, which eliminated the Tigers in the state semifinals last season.

Stuttgart (8-4) led in the second half until Tiger quarterback John David Elder connected with Colin Bryant for two fourth-down touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. The first came with 5 minutes, 18 seconds left when Bryant split two defenders then bounced off another player for a 37-yard touchdown catch to put Prairie Grove ahead 17-14.

“I saw a (defender) cut across and I just cut behind him,” Bryant said of the score that put Prairie Grove ahead. “I tried to get open the best I could and when he threw the ball, I went up for it and got it.”

Following a stop by the Prairie Grove defense, Bryant caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Elder on fourth down with 1:07 left to secure the victory for the Tigers. Elder also connected with Colin’s twin brother Stone on an 18-yard touchdown pass for the Tigers’ only score in the first half.

Prairie Grove couldn’t have won without a standout effort from its defense, which held the speedy Ricebirds scoreless in the second half. Stuttgart was in a position to score after David Johnson burst up the middle on a 44-yard run into Prairie Grove territory. The Ricebirds moved closer to the Prairie Grove end zone until Demarkus Cooper shot through at end and made a tackle for a loss to when the Tigers stop Stuttgart on fourth down-and-4.

“Demarkus does that every once in a while where he does his only little thing,” Prairie Grove coach Danny Abshier said. “Sometimes he gets chewed out for it and sometimes it’s huge, just like it was right there.”

David Johnson had over 100 yards rushing for Stuttgart, which defeated Shiloh Christian 28-7 in a first-round game last week.

Stuttgart led 14-9 at halftime on the heels of a 70-yard, 15-play drive in the second quarter. The Ricebirds stayed mostly on the ground but the highlight of the drive came on fourth-down-and-6 when quarterback Tim Johnson floated a screen pass to David Johnson, who ran 22 yards to the Prairie Grove 11. Kirk Hughes scored on a 3-yard run and then added a 2-point conversion run to put the Ricebirds ahead 14-9.

Both teams scored on their opening drives and Prairie Grove added a safety for a 9-6 lead. Stuttgart recovered an onside kick to start the game and the Ricebirds scored eight plays later on a 1-yard run by Johnson.

Elder threw 18 yards to Stone Bryant for Prairie Grove’s only touchdown of the first half and the Tigers added a safety when Clayton Spinks tackled Tim Johnson in the end zone while attempting to pass.

Prairie Grove had another drive stopped at the Stuttgart 5 when David Johnson deflected a fourth-down pass.

Sports on 11/18/2017

Print Headline: Prairie Grove stays alive with fourth-down touchdown passes

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