Harrison, Greenwood vie for AAAA-West championship

Harrison and Greenwood tangle for the AAAA-West Conference title tonight with a lot at stake. The winner gets homefield throughout the playoffs.

Elks try out turf at War Memorial Stadium
It's a Halloween treat to get to play in the state's most prestigious football stadium and that's where the Elkins Elks will be Friday night when they take on 7AA-West Conference upstart Spring Hill.
To write this is Elkins' only opportunity to play at WMS is a bit presumptuous. Yet, to say the Elks will be back for a December date in Little Rock is a lot more presumptuous.
The Class AA playoff picture is crowded with very good football teams at the top. Junction City is a juggernaut that has yet to put up less than 42 points in a game; Barton is a traditional powerhouse that has yet to score less than 36 points in a game; And Charleston is on its way to winning a 1AA Conference crown for the sixth time in seven years.
Throw in the Risons, Gurdons and Hectors, and Class AA has a mix of strong teams that will make up the better part of the final eight teams in the 32-team field.
Elkins can be there, too. The Elks lost only by a field goal to Charleston. They proved last year that they can beat any of the also-rans in the playoff field and, given a better second-round draw - Elkins lost at Rison last year - the Elks can make some noise.
And then, who knows?
A couple more wins and, voila!, you're playing in War Memorial Stadium again.
Friday's game against Spring Hill will be good for everybody involved.

Elkins vs. Spring Hill
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium
Records: Coach Aaron Clark (21-20) has the Elks rolling along at 6-1 overall and 5-1 in the 1AA Conference. The Spring Hill Bears are in just their second year of playing varsity football. Coached by Tommy Poole (3-14) and members of the 7AA-West Conference, the Bears are 2-5 overall and 2-4 in league play.
The series: This is the first meeting of the two teams.
Last year: This game replaces Westside (Johnson County) on Elkins' schedule. The Elks bettered Westside, 42-7, in a game which Elkins was picked to win by 26 points.

Notable stats:
Elkins' rushing game has put up good numbers, 1,629 total yards and 21 touchdowns. Last week, the Elks clicked through the air. Rusty Tate was 7-of-8 for a career-high 189 yards. Josh Gage and Ryan Finkus both doubled their receptions for the year. Gage caught three for 82 yards and Finkus grabbed two passes for 69 yards.
Outlook: Spring Hill's program is still in its infancy, but the Bears doubled last year's win total and won a game they can really hang their hat on last week. Spring Hill knocked off 7AA-West Conference titan Mineral Springs, 28-20, in double overtime to improve to 2-5 on the season.
Elkins unveiled its balance, using big passing plays to romp past Hackett last week. The Elks appeared to be no worse for wear following a 24-21 loss to Charleston. Yet, Elkins did give up more that 200 yards on the ground for the second consecutive week. Opponents have gained 1,070 rushing yards against Elkins in seven outings, averaging 3.9 yards per carry.
RPS Bottom Line: Spring Hill is not a playoff-caliber team, but they did beat one last week. Caleb Askew scored two touchdowns and rushed for 163 yards to lead the Bears. He might find some running room at War Memorial Stadium, but not as much as what the Elks' offensive line will create ...
Elkins 27, Spring Hill 14.

Pea Ridge at Lavaca

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Jimmy B. Hobbs Memorial Stadium
Records: Coach Mike Harrod (15-12-1) has the Blackhawks at 5-2 overall and alone in third place at 4-1 in the 1AA Conference. Lavaca coach Mark Headley (9-10) is in his second year with the Golden Arrows. Lavaca is 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the league.
The series: Lavaca had won all four meetings against the Blackhawks, dating back to a 1978 victor. But Pea Ridge buried the hex with last year's 46-43 victory at Blackhawk Stadium.
Last year: Pea Ridge trailed Lavaca, 29-6, in the second quarter, but rallied to behind Joey Wiltgen's 230-yard effort and 108 more yards and two touchdowns from Brett Reynolds.
Notable stats: In six of their seven games, the Pea Ridge Blackhawks have gained more than 300 yards on the ground. Last week against Cedarville, the Blackhawks had a season-high 456 yards shared among nine different ball carriers. Ryan Burnett led the way with seven rushes for 159 yards. He now has 1,122 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns this season.
Outlook: When they met at this time last year, Pea Ridge had qualified for the playoffs. The Blackhawks played a lackluster first quarter and a half and then played like they were capable to beat the Golden Arrows.
This time around, Class AA's 14th-ranked Blackhawks are not in.
In fact, Lavaca can atone for last week's loss to Mountainburg and sneak into the playoff picture by beating Pea Ridge. A win over the Blackhawks would likely produce a three-way tie for third with Pea Ridge, Lavaca and Mountainburg. Lavaca needs a 7-point victory to move ahead of Pea Ridge in tie-breaking points. Mountainburg needs that same 7-point margin over either Charleston or Hackett.
Pea Ridge would then be knocked out of the playoffs. The Blackhawks also fall out of the playoff picture with two losses and two Mountainburg wins.
RPS Bottom Line: Lavaca used to have Pea Ridge's number, but last year's come-from-behind win by the Blackhawks tossed any notions of a hex aside. Pea Ridge doesn't need pressure to win next week when the 'Hawks go to Charleston. The need to take care of business tonight and not leave anything up to somebody else ... Pea Ridge 25, Lavaca 18.

AAAA-West Conference
Huntsville at Siloam Springs
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Glenn W. Black Stadium
Records: Huntsville is 3-5 overall and stands at 1-4 in the AAAA-West Conference. The Eagles are coached by Ken Harriman, who is in the second year of his second stint with the team and owns a 73-52-1 record. The Siloam Springs Panthers (0-7-1) are coached by Chris McBride, who is 3-14-1 in his second year as head coach. The Panthers are 0-5 in AAAA-West Conference action.
The series: The two teams spent four years together in the same conference from 1981-84 and then continued to play annually for the next six seasons. When they were last in the 1AAA Conference together, the two schools had split four games. From 1985-90, the bigger school, Siloam Springs, won five of six meetings.
Last year: Huntsville was a 2-point favorite, but Siloam Springs came into Madison County and took a 24-14 victory from the Eagles.

Notable stats:
On the ground, Siloam Springs has gained just one more yard than Huntsville, 1,249-1,249, despite rushing 76 more times than the Eagles. Through the air, Huntsville owns better than a 1,000-yard cushion. Bracken Thompson has thrown for more than 1,500 yards this season while neither of Siloam Springs' quarterbacks has reached 300 yards passing.
Outlook:
Strange how this one could be looked at as another win for Huntsville. After all, Huntsville has won three games this season and, as noted above, demonstrates more balance in its offense.
What the Eagles have not shown, though, is much ability to slow down good opposing offenses. If the opponent has had any kind of might in its front line, the Eagles have not been up to the test this year. An 0-7-1 record might indicate, initially, that Siloam Springs falls below par on a scale of "mightiness" but the Panthers' losses have proven otherwise.
As McBride noted following last week's loss at Harrison, the Panthers would have a much better record if the games were over at halftime.
RPS Bottom Line: Coming of a resounding victory over Clarksville, Huntsville has something that Siloam Springs lacks: Confidence. Siloam Springs is probably the better football team despite the records. Based on the Panthers' past outings, though, it appears Siloam Springs will have to win this game twice - in the first half and again in the second half ...
Siloam Springs 21, Huntsville 19.

No. 25 Harrison at No. 38 Greenwood
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Smith-Robinson Stadium
Records:  Harrison (8-0, 5-0) is ranked No. 5 in Class AAAA and battles under the guidance of Tom Tice, who is 178-62-5 with the Golden Goblins. Greenwood coach Harv Welch (22-9) is in his third year with the Bulldogs. Greenwood (7-1, 5-0) lost only to Fayetteville with Harrison and Alma still on the schedule.
The series: Harrison is 10-5 against Greenwood since the two teams joined together in the same conference back in 1989. There is one extra meeting, a 1999 confrontation that Harrison won, 30-13, en route to the Class AAAA state title.
Last year: Harrison pulled out a 17-14 at Crooked Creek, spoiling Greenwood's 5-0 conference record. The Bulldogs lost the following week, too, and ended up the No. 3 seed from the AAAA-West Conference.
Notable stats: Senior fullback Justin McCutcheon ran for 145 yards on 15 carries and scored on third-quarter touchdown runs of 4 and 25 yards as Harrison rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Siloam Springs, 21-3.
Outlook: Despite the distance between the two towns, this has been a somewhat heated rivalry. Harrison won the first five meetings (1989-93) and the teams have split 10 games since that time.
Harrison's stock has slowly dwindled in the past month, however. After opening conference play with a 21-0 whipping of Alma, Harrison stomped Clarksville. Since then, the Goblins have become somewhat stagnant on offense, sandwiching 21-7 and 21-3 victories over Greenbrier and Siloam Springs around a 27-19 win over Morrilton.
Greenwood was motoring along, too, until the last couple of weeks. The Bulldogs needed a 20-point fourth quarter to knock off Siloam Springs and then barely edged Morrilton, 28-26, last week.
RPS Bottom Line: This may have been a case of two teams looking ahead to their clash. Harrison is the better cold-weather (read: playoff) football team, but Greenwood has the ability to make good teams look bad a potent attack that has seen the Bulldogs average close to 37 points per conference outing. Harrison won't be allowing that kind of fireworks display ... Harrison 20, Greenwood 19.

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