The preliminaries are over. It’s time to get down to the serious business at hand as conference play begins this week across the state.
The 4A-1 Conference race promises to be a dogfight from start to finish with no clear cut favorite, but plenty of worthy teams that should be in the race for the league title all the way to the end of the regular season.
Let’s start with defending champion Prairie Grove, fresh off a blowout win over West Fork on Friday. The Tigers, to no one’s surprise, are solid again this season. Although they lost some excellent players from last year’s team, the Tigers have plenty left to repeat. Bobby Catt had 105 yards and a TD, and another TD catch last week, but was suffered an ankle injury against West Fork.
Pea Ridge is off to a 3-0 start and got a huge lift in its 43-8 win over Paris on Friday when TE Tristan Trundle returned after breaking his femur early in the summer. The Blackhawks have already eclipsed last year’s win total and are looking to return to the playoffs.
Huntsville, moving down from the 5A-West, is off to a 2-1 start behind the running of Christian Cain. The Eagles could make a huge statement this week with a win at Prairie Grove.
Lincoln rebounded from losses in its first two games to throttle Cedarville. The Wolves may be coming around after replacing their coach and quarterback this spring.
Shiloh Christian played a tough nonconference schedule and are 1-2 in Jeff Conaway’s first season. The Saints have struggled in defending the pass in losses to Charleston and Victory Christian. But the Saints are explosive offensively and will be in mix as sophomore QB Connor Reece continues to improve every week.
Gentry and Berryville appear to be a notch below the rest of the teams in the conference, although the Bobcats appear to be much improved this season.
And that brings us to Gravette. The Lions were dominated in their season opening loss to Pottsville, but have won two straight behind RB Cedric Duarte, who has rushed for 639 yards and 8 touchdowns in three games. The Lions have rebounded from the Pottsville loss and are running behind a massive offensive line that will try to impose its will against the rest of the league.
The Lions open conference play on the road at Lincoln this week. This will be their third straight road game, but it is key if Gravette expects to contend for the league title.
The race for the league title and top seed in the playoffs will be a battle for the next seven weeks for sure.
Berryville 36, Green Forest 34
Greenland 24, Gentry 15
Gravette 41, Jay, Okla. 7
Huntsville 31, Elkins 14
Lincoln 45, Cedarville 22
Pea Ridge 43, Paris 8
Prairie Grove 42, West Fork 0
Tulsa (Okla.) Victory Christian 41, Shiloh Christian 27
This Week’s Games
Berryville at Shiloh Christian
Pea Ridge at Gentry
Gravette at Lincoln
Huntsville at Prairie Grove
All kickoffs 7 p.m.