PEA RIDGE -- After being held in check most of the game Friday night by a stingy Pea Ridge defense, Helena-West Helena Central's Armonie Calhoun made the plays he needed to when they counted most.
The senior quarterback cut through the right side of the line for a 6-yard touchdown run on the second play of overtime, lifting the Cougars to an 8-0 victory over the Blackhawks in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Helena-West Helena Central 8, Pea Ridge 8, PEA RIDGE 0 (OT)
W. Helena Central 0 0 0 0 8 — 8
Pea Ridge 0 0 0 0 0 — 0
West – Calhoun 6 run (Oliver run)
"This was the best defense I went against all season," an emotional Calhoun said afterward. "But I wanted it, my team wanted it, and thanks to my O-line, we got it done.
"We knew it was going to be a slugfest all night."
After Calhoun scored, Deamonte Oliver ran in the two-point conversion. Pea Ridge failed to reach in the end zone on its four plays from the opposing team's 10-yard line -- where each team gets the ball in overtime.
Calhoun came into the game averaging over 159 yards rushing per game -- going over 100 yards eight times this season -- but was held to a season-low 63 yards on 23 carries. He also completed 6 of 18 passes for 41 yards, and added a 24-yard reception near the end of regulation.
"It was frustrating not being able to do what I did all season, but I knew I just had to be patient," he said.
The game, played in 24-degree weather, featured 12 punts, four fumbles and two interceptions. Coincidentally, both teams finished with exactly 180 yards of total offense. Pea Ridge outgained Helena-West Helena on the ground, 125-95, but the Cougars won the air battle, 85-55.
"It was a great win for us, but it was a dogfight from start to finish," Helena-West Helena Coach Russell Smith said. "My hat goes off to Pea Ridge, because that game could have gone either way. Fortunately, we were able to pull it out at the end."
The first half was virtually uneventful offensively, as both teams struggled to get any rhythm.
Helena-West Helena began the game with back-to-back eight-play drives, but neither proved fruitful. The Cougars' first drive fizzled out with an incomplete fourth-down pass at the Pea Ridge 38. Their next two drives ended with punts.
Pea Ridge was forced to punt on its first two drives, then fumbled the ball away on the first play of its third drive. Fortunately for the Blackhawks, the Cougars quickly coughed the ball back up as Pea Ridge recovered at its own 39.
Helena-West Helena's Caldreekious Harrell recovered another Pea Ridge fumble at the Cougars 17 midway through the second quarter, thwarting the Blackhawks' deepest penetration. But Pea Ridge's Justin Koon returned the favor five plays later, picking off a Cougars pass near midfield.
Carson Rhine intercepted a Helena-West Helena pass early in the four quarter and returned it to the Cougars 5-yard line, appearing to give the Blackhawks their best threat of the night. But a block in the back on the return put the ball back near midfield and Pea Ridge proceeded to turn the ball over on downs.
"That was just a great high school playoff game, very hard-fought by both sides," Blackhawks Coach Stephen Neal said. "We were pretty evenly matched up, and (Helena-West Helena) did a fantastic job, after taking a five-hour bus trip up here, then come out with an overtime win."
Central, who won its fourth consecutive game, defeated previously unbeaten and top-ranked Warren 60-36 last week. The Cougars had to make a 327-mile journey for Friday night's contest.
"I'm just proud of how our team responded," Smith said. "They just seem to keep wanting it, so we are just going to move on to next week and try to keep it going."
Sports on 11/10/2018
Print Headline: After long ride, Helena-West Helena tops Pea Ridge in overtime