Prairie Grove on a roll ... and keeps on rollin'

Prairie Grove practically has the 1AAA Conference race locked up while preseason favorites, Berryville and Shiloh Christian, battle it out for second place.

Walking on sunshine: Prairie Grove steams into playoffs
It seems almost like yesterday. Prairie Grove did something it had not done in 34 years.
The Tigers won an outright district title in 1997. They qualified for the playoffs for only the fourth time in the school's history and made back-to-back appearances in the postseason for two consecutive years.
Then Prairie Grove went on a playoff run of three consecutive victories. That, in itself, is still remarkable. Since the Tigers' trip to the semifinals, they have only won a single playoff game.
The playoff magic has never been quite the same, but you can almost smell it brewing by the Battlefield again in 2003. Prairie Grove is in the playoffs for the eighth consecutive time now, all under Danny Abshier. No other 1AAA team can claim so much success at reaching the postseason. Only Farmington, which made six of its nine consecutive trips (1981-89) in a lower classification, and Shiloh Christian, which had an eight-year postseason streak snapped last season, can claim anything like what Prairie Grove has done.
All that is left for Prairie Grove to accomplish this year is to shake a first-round jinx that has haunted the Tigers over the last three years. It won't be easy going up against the likes of a Booneville, Ozark or Greenland.
Then again, making the playoffs eight consecutive years was something few believed Prairie Grove would ever do.

Gravette at No. 30 Prairie Grove
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Records: Defending 1AAA Conference champion Gravette is 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the conference. Coach Charlie Phillips is 64-48 as the head coach of the Lions. The Prairie Grove Tigers (6-2, 5-0) are ranked sixth in Class AAA and coached by Danny Abshier, who has posted a 68-48-2 record as a head coach.
The series: In 10 years of battles between Abshier and Phillips, the two coaches are knotted at five wins apiece. Prairie Grove had won five in a row over Gravette before the Lions broke the string with last year's victory.
Last year: Gravette won the game, 22-6, at Bernard McAbee Field. The win enabled the Lions to clinch the No. 1 seed in the 1AAA Conference. A week later, Gravette wrapped up a 10-0 campaign with a 12-0 win over Gentry.

Notable stats:
Ten different Tigers carried the football last Friday and Prairie Grove mauled Green Forest, 41-0. Eight different players carried the football for Gravette last week and the Lions were blown away, 49-7, but Shiloh Christian.
Outlook: For the first time ever, Prairie Grove has ascended into the state's Top 30 football teams. That's a remarkable feat considering the Tigers' excellent success over the past eight years. Prairie Grove is 59-28-2 over the past eight seasons and 50-12 in the conference. Few teams can match that kind of a record over that long a period across the state.
Then there is Prairie Grove's most recent accomplishment: The Tigers are in the Top 40 for the third consecutive week. This is only the sixth week since 1986 that Prairie Grove has been in the Top 40.  The Tigers made their Top 40 debut in 1999, made a two-week return in 2001 and have made a steady climb this season over the past three weeks.
RPS Bottom Line: For Prairie Grove to keep climbing, the Tigers have to continue to beat the point spreads set by RPS. Yet, winning is the No. 1 objective, especially when it comes to Gravette and avenging last year's loss. On a good night, the Lions are not 25 points worse than Prairie Grove, but everybody seems to be having bad nights when they play the Tigers ...
Prairie Grove 25, Gravette 0.

Farmington at Green Forest
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Records: Farmington snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 2-6 overall and 1-4 in the 1AAA under Mike Adams, who is in his first year at the Cardinals' helm. The Green Forest Tigers are 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the league under the dean of 1AAA football coaches, Bill Gotto, who enters the contest with a 97-85-2 record.
The series: Farmington leads the series, which started in 1987 upon the Cardinals' arrival into the league, 10-6. Farmington has won three in a row.
Last year: An 11-point favorite, Farmington held off Green Forest, 32-24, to claim the fourth playoff spot from the 1AAA Conference.

Notable stats:
Two Farmington receivers cleared 100 yards last week. Michael Caudle did it swiftly, gaining 119 yards on two touchdown receptions. Blake Neil caught a season-high eight passes and eclipsed 100 yards for the first time this season with 118 yards. Cardinals quarterback Ryan Dennis had 305 yards passing in Farmington's 29-14 victory over Gentry.
Outlook: One week ago, Farmington was preparing to avoid last place. This week, the Cardinals are preparing for a last-ditch playoff run.
That's right, from 0-4 and completely forgotten, the Cardinals are now 1-4 and clinging to hope. In the next two weeks, Farmington needs two victories and they need them by a total of 18 points - with neither victory being worth more than 13 points.
If Farmington is able to secure two victories, a three-way tie would almost be assured. The first step to staying alive in the playoff hunt is to beat Green Forest on the Tigers' own turf. The second step is, well, let's put that aside for now.
RPS Bottom Line: Farmington's passing game clicked last week and the Cardinals will need it to work again against to offset the ball-control offense of Green Forest. The Tigers have slipped the last two weeks, suffering shutouts to both Shiloh Christian and Prairie Grove. While Farmington stays in the playoff picture with a win, Green Forest can clinch its fourth trip in six years. Being closer to the golden ring is what will make the difference for the Tigers ... Green Forest 23, Farmington 17
.

Lincoln at Gentry

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Pioneer Stadium
Records: Lincoln is 1-7 and 1-4 in the 1AAA Conference. Coach Mike Guthrie (2-16) is in his second term with the Wolves. Gentry coach Jeff Stewart is in his first year with the Pioneers and is going through some hard times. Gentry has lost seven in a row and stands 1-7 overall, 0-5 in the 1AAA Conference.
The series: In the last 21 years, Gentry leads the series 11-7 over Lincoln. The Wolves and Pioneers have split two of the last four meetings.
Last year: Gentry was a 6-point favorite over a Lincoln team that was struggling through a 1-9 season. The Wolves almost came away with the mild upset, losing only 8-7 at Wolves Stadium.

Notable stats:
Ray Ryan threw for a season-high 199 yards in last week's 29-14 loss to Farmington. Ryan, the former Decatur quarterback, was 14-of-36 with a touchdown pass to Cody Galloway.
Outlook: The Wolves are few in number and they are battered and beaten up at this point in the season. But if you're a member of the Lincoln Wolves, what else is new?
You learn to handle it.
Lincoln was in similar straits last season when the Wolves dug in and found a way to give Gentry a scare. That was a 3-5 Gentry team, a squad that had beaten Cedarville, Greenland and Shiloh Christian.
Gentry won at Cedarville to start the season, but has been outscored 232-100 since opening night. Although Lincoln does struggle to put points on the board, the Wolves have the fourth best scoring defense in the league, allowing under 18 points per game.
RPS Bottom Line: It has been 23 games since Lincoln last scored 18 points or more and the Wolves are due to pop. If Lincoln is able to put two or three touchdowns on the board, then the defense should be able to come through and give the Wolves their first two-win season since 2000 ... Lincoln 18, Gentry 14.


Berryville at Shiloh Christian
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Field of Champions
Records: Doug Scheel's first year at Berryville has seen the Bobcats go 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the 1AAA Conference. Shiloh Christian coach Chris Wood (21-11-1) has led the Saints to a state title and, this year, a 6-2 overall record and 4-1 conference mark.
The series: Shiloh Christian had won the first two games ever played between the two teams by a combined score of 84-38. Berryville handed out some payback last year with a 42-14 win in Carroll County.
Last year: Berryville was a solid 10-point favorite and locked up its No. 2 spot on the playoff bracket with a 28-point victory. The win was the fifth in a string of seven consecutive victories for the Bobcats, who had not won seven in a row since 1993.
Notable stats:
Nathan Emert's passing numbers cannot be ignored. Memories of previous Saints quarterbacks Josh Floyd and Rhett Lashlee come rushing back when Emert's statistics are examined. To date, he has completed 139 passes for more than 2,153 yards. Twenty-five of his passes have gone for touchdowns with only six interceptions.
Outlook: Berryville scored five touchdowns or more in its first two conference games and then ran into a brick wall against Prairie Grove. After being held to a field goal, the Bobcats have battled to get untracked again. In games against two of the three weakest teams in the league, Berryville was barely able to claim the maximum 13-point reward for tie-breaker purposes.
The Bobcats are clearly on the decline. Shiloh Christian is just getting started.
The Saints have scored seven touchdowns in each of their last three outings and have not been tested since a 20-8 loss to Prairie Grove.
RPS Bottom Line: Berryville should be closer to Prairie Grove's end of the 1AAA Conference spectrum, but the Bobcats have not shown much superiority in the last month. Outside of Prairie Grove, Shiloh Christian has beaten its 1AAA opponents by an average score of 47-7. It shouldn't be that bad for Berryville, but defeat still isn't good ... Shiloh Christian 19, Berryville 10.


Greenland at Booneville
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Bearcat Stadium
Records: Greenland is 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the 4AAA Conference under Lee Larkan, who is 22-10 in his third year as the Pirates' skipper. Booneville coach Ken Rippy (133-34) leads the Bearcats into the contest with a record of 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the league.
The series: Berryville won the first meeting of the two schools in 2002.
Last year: Booneville was a two-touchdown favorite when it came to Greenland last year and the Bearcats proved to be every bit as good as their reputation indicated. Booneville rocked Greenland, 56-24.

Notable stats:
If Aaron Smith catches the ball, odds are that he's going to the house. Smith has caught six passes according to the weekly reports from Greenland and five of them have been for touchdowns. Smith is the Dante Hall of Arkansas football with six catches for an average of 44.2 yards.
Outlook: Booneville hasn't been in a position like this, with only three conference wins, since 1995. That year, Booneville was 3-2 following a 13-12 loss to Paris and needed wins over Ozark and Subiaco Academy to assure a place on the playoff bracket.
It was also a year in which Booneville drew a great first-round opponent, Beebe, and waltzed into the second round following a 44-6 mashing of the Badgers.
Booneville has won 68 games since 1998. Even if the Bearcats were to lose the rest of their games this year, they would still have won an average of more than 11 per season.
RPS Bottom Line: Greenland's consistency rating is going up, but there is still a little birdie carrying a grain or two of doubt. The Pirates, by simple virtue of the fact that they beat a team that beat Booneville, should be the favorite here. In their first trip into the abdomen of River Valley football, however, the Bearcats' home-field advantage, a defense that has given up just 37 points in eight games and that tradition are huge ... Booneville 22, Greenland 12.


Subiaco Academy at West Fork
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Records: The Subiaco Academy Trojans are 2-6 overall and 1-4 in the 4AAA Conference. Robert Pugh is in his first year leading the program, one of only two in Class AAA (Lamar) to never play a postseason game in the modern era of Arkansas football. Bryan Dougan is also in his first year at West Fork and has the Tigers at 3-4 overall. West Fork is 1-4 in the 4AAA Conference.
The series: Subiaco Academy won the first meeting of the schools in 2002.
Last year: Favored by 8 points, Subiaco Academy found itself in a lower scoring game than expected and had to fight off the visiting Tigers for a 20-12 triumph.
Notable stats: West Fork's Dougan said before Friday's meeting that Booneville's idea of a passing situation was third-and-20. There must not have been any third-and-long situations at all for Booneville, The Bearcats ran 46 plays, all on the ground, and rushed for 491 yards and six touchdowns in a 41-0 blistering of West Fork.
Outlook: Sixth place is on the line in West Fork when the Trojans invade. Sixth place may not sound thrilling, but both of these clubs are used to playing late-October games for pride.
Dougan and Pugh want those days of playing for pride to be gone ... and soon. Under these circumstances, neither coach will take any of the focus away from Friday's battle. West Fork, which still has Greenland on the schedule next week, has a single conference victory over Paris, 55-27. Subiaco Academy, with Ozark still remaining on the schedule, whipped Paris, 47-19, to open conference play.
Since that victory, Subiaco Academy's offense has been held to 19 points, including two shutouts, and the Trojans have yet to get within 28 points of any of their opponents.
RPS Bottom Line: West Fork has not fared much better in the league, scoring only 13 points and suffering two shutouts. Against like programs, however, the Tigers have been able to pull off three wins. These two teams are definitely comparable and West Fork, despite last week's whipping, will be a little more up for a battle in front of the home folks ... West Fork 21, Subiaco Academy 15.

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