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OPINION: 5A West league play begins

by By John McGee, columnist | September 20, 2022 at 7:00 a.m.

The campaigns for playoff positions begin in earnest this week as Arkansas high schools begin district play.

The top four 5A teams in each district qualify for a 16-team state championship playoff format. The 4A regulations allow for five teams to enter those playoffs, placing 30 teams into championship contention.

Seven of the eight 5A West teams had winning records in the three game non-conference as only Clarksville failed to win a game, going 0-3. Alma has been impressive in their run out to 3-0, with the other six schools finishing with identical 2-1 records.

This past week saw Shiloh complete their private school schedule as they got past Tulsa Lincoln Academy in a shootout, 42-35.

This week, there are two expected blowouts to occur when Dardanelle invades Shiloh and Clarksville visits Alma. The home teams are favored by at least four touchdowns. Prairie Grove is a decided favorite when they come to the Ridge this Friday, expected to win by two touchdowns. The conference game of the week will see Farmington going to Harrison. The Goblins are slight favorites in that battle.

The Tigers, led by longtime coach Danny Abshier, won one-sided wins over Huntsville (45-8) and Gravette (50-28), the same two teams that Pea Ridge also defeated in their two wins of the non-conference season.

The Tigers run out of the Wing T offense and usually pile up a lot yardage on the ground. In their loss to Metro, the Tigers barely got 100 yards rushing while picking up 136 through the air on the strength of Camden Patterson's arm. Prairie Grove's formidable offensive line paves the way for lots of gains in their ground game. Patterson is accurate in his long throws and can tuck it and run when need be.

Pea Ridge was a long time rival with Prairie Grove in the 4A-1 Conference before Pea Ridge moved up to 5A in 2020. The Tigers will be playing in their first 5A class district game when they invade the Battlefield for Pea Ridge's Homecoming game this Friday night.

History of homecoming

It is generally recognized by historians and scholars that American football homecomings came into being in the early 1900s. Many schools claim to have had the first homecoming festivities but the University of Missouri has had the longest run, kicking off the event in 1911.

Missouri and Kansas began their "Border War" football rivalry in 1891, not all that long after the end of the Civil War.

The game started being played at a neutral site in Kansas City. That went until the league office that both teams operated out of insisted that beginning in 1911, all league teams play all their conference games at conference schools. This led to Missouri hosting the first Border War game in Columbia.

Missouri athletic director Chester Brewer wanted to gin up the attendance for the game with Kansas, and he hit on the idea of inviting all alumni of the University of Missouri back for a day of parties, entertainment and attendance at a football game.

Brewer had the big game he was hoping for, and soon a lot of schools large and small began emulating Missouri's homecoming tradition.

Today, homecoming is a big part of high school tradition, thought activities vary among them. Here at Pea Ridge, it will be dress up week for students at all grade levels, and Friday there will be a tailgate party by the stadium, a parade in the afternoon and a queen and her court will be crowned before the game.

Traditionally, a team will select the weakest visiting team on their schedule to serve as the homecoming opposition, but other concerns such as avoiding late season cold and possibly later weather complications will guide teams to September dates such as this year for Pea Ridge.

When I was coaching in Missouri in the 1980s in Missouri, I was helping with a team that lacked numbers, size, speed and talent. Consequently, we "got" to play in a lot of homecomings. One year, the schedule had us playing six road games and four games.

Wouldn't you know it, we played in seven homecomings that year including the one at our school. That meant a lot of late night arrivals home from extended games on the road. We won one game that year -- our homecoming.

5A West

Non-conference

Standings

Alma^3-0

Pea Ridge^2-1

Prairie Grove^2-1

Harrison^2-1

Farmington^2-1

Dardanelle^2-1

Shiloh^2-1

Clarksville^0-3

MaxPreps/CBS Poll

5A Football

Sept. 18, 2022

1. Shiloh^2-1

2. Magnolia^3-0

3. LR Parkview^1-2

4. LR Robinson^2-1

5. Camden^2-1

6. Wynne^2-1

7. LR Mills^3-0

8. Farmington^2-1

9. Nettleton^3-0

10. Hot Springs^2-1

11. Alma^3-0

12. Beebe^2-1

13. White Hall^2-1

14. Maumelle^2-1

15. Valley View^2-1

16. Morrilton^2-1

17. Harrison^2-1

18. Prairie Grove^2-1

19. Hot Springs^1-1

20. Pine Bluff^2-1

21. Vilonia^1-2

22. Batesville Southside^2-1

23. HS Lakeside^0-2

24. Dardanelle^2-1

25. PB Watson Chapel^1-2

26. Pea Ridge^2-1

27. Forrest City^1-2

28. Brookland^1-2

29. Hope^0-3

30. Texarkana^1-2

31. Clarksville^0-3

32. DeQueen^0-3

33. Paragould^1-2

Razorbacks win wild one

The Arkansas Razorbacks are fortunate to have a 3-0 record after the scare Missouri State put into the Hogs Saturday afternoon.

The Bears from Springfield brought former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino with them as he runs their program now. Petrino's play calling and Arkansas mistakes very nearly brought about what would have been a historic loss for a Top Ten Division I team against a Division I Subdivision team.

The Hogs trailed the Bears for most of the game, losing by 10 three minutes into the final period.

A short pass from K.J. Jefferson to Rocket Sanders turned into a 73-yard touchdown scamper to the end zone to cut the lead to 3 with 9 minutes left to play. Two minutes later, after forcing Missouri State to punt, Bryce Stephens gathered in the kick then sprinted past a host of Bear defenders to return the punt 82 yards for a score and to to put the Hogs ahead 31-27. Three minutes later, Jefferson punched it in from 1 yard out to ice the game with a 38-27 lead.

The Hogs fumbled away the ball twice and a mishandled catch by a Hog receiver landed in the hands of a Bear for a third turnover. Though Arkansas amassed nearly 700 yards of offense, the mistakes led to a much closer victory.

Petrino was the last successful coach the Razorbacks had over the last 10 years, that is until unheralded Sam Pittman came to the Hill and turned the Hogs back into national contenders these last two seasons.

•••

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]

Print Headline: 5A West league play begins

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