PEA RIDGE -- The nose of the football was touching the 5-yard line as the fourth quarter clock reached the halfway point.
Pea Ridge coach Stephen Neal, with his Blackhawks holding a 19-14 lead at the time, said the decision was made to attempt a field goal to make it an eight-point game.
Pea Ridge 26, Prairie Grove 21
Pea — Winn 33 run (Green kick), 10:10.
Prair — Preston 14 run (Mayers kick), 4:35.
Pea — Witcher 37 pass from Sainsbury (Kick failed), 4:47.
Pea — Winn 8 run (Pass failed), 7:59.
Prair — Johnson 18 run (Mayers kick), 2:59.
Pea — Winn 3 run (Green kick), 6:03.
Prair — C. Bryant 70 pass from Elder (Mayers kick), 5:32.
Then an offside penalty against Prairie Grove changed everything. Instead of facing fourth and goal from the 5, the ball was moved to the 3, and there was no doubt about what Pea Ridge would do next.
Put the ball in the hands of Drew Winn.
Winn took the direct snap and plowed into the line, somehow getting twisted around. He fell backward on top of a teammate, but kept his feet pushing until he landed on his back in the end zone.
Winn's third touchdown of the night proved to be the difference in Pea Ridge's 26-21 win in a huge 4A-1 Conference game in Blackhawks Stadium in front of a capacity crowd.
"We were just trying to grind the clock down a little bit, then we were going to send our field goal team in," Neal said after the game. "That's because of (Prairie Grove's) red zone defense. They are well known for once the ball gets inside the 10-yard line, they are very tough to score on. So we were going to just take whatever points we could get. Fortunately for us, they got a penalty, then there was never a doubt or hesitation on who we were going to give the ball to."
Friday night's game was a battle of Class 4A heavyweights, both undefeated coming in. Turnovers played a crucial role in the outcome as Prairie Grove (6-1, 3-1) turned the ball over three times, the last one with under two minutes left when it looked like the Tigers were about to pull their 26th consecutive regular season win out.
After Winn's score gave Pea Ridge (7-0, 4-0) a 26-14 lead with 6 minutes, 3 seconds left in the game, it took Prairie Grove just three plays and 31 seconds for the Tigers to climb back into it as quarterback John David Elder connected with Colin Bryant on a 70-yard touchdown strike to make it a one-possession game again at 26-21.
The Tigers then forced a three-and-out and took over at their own 25 with under four minutes left. Prairie Grove marched quickly across midfield, thanks to a 27-yard run around the left side by Anthony Johnson to the Pea Ridge 30. But three plays later the Tigers turned it over on a fumble and the Blackhawks were able to hold on.
"We turned the ball over three times and we haven't been turning the ball over all year," said Prairie Grove coach Danny Abshier. "It's a different game if we don't turn it over. So turnovers hurt, missed blocks hurt, missed tackles hurt, they just beat us. They did a good job."
While turnovers were key, a huge defensive play by the Blackhawks at the end of the first half was also a factor. Prairie Grove forced a Pea Ridge fumble with under a minute left in the half, then Elder hit Stone Bryant for 52 yards down the middle of the field to the Blackhawks 8. But with the clock at under 10 seconds, Elder was flushed out of the pocket and brought down at the 2 as the horn sounded.
"(Bryant) was on a long run and he was getting ready to score a touchdown when we got him on the ground," said Neal. "So we made them snap the ball again and that was huge."
Winn's three touchdowns capped another stellar night for the senior, who finished with 181 yards on 31 carries. Johnson also had a big night for the Tigers with 153 yards on 19 carries.
Sports on 10/14/2017
Print Headline: Pea Ridge remains unbeaten