Abshier expects Gravette will be toughest opponent yet
Prairie Grove is perfect (4-0, 1-0) heading into Friday’s pivotal 4A-1 game at Gravette, a team Tigers coach Danny Abshier said looks familiar on film.
“It’s the same thing we always see (at Gravette),” Abshier said. “It’s a classy bunch and classic (coach) Billy Harrelson team. He always puts out a good bunch that goes hard and coach Harrelson and his staff always have a great (game) plan and always provide great competition.
“And I don’t expect anything different this Friday.”
The Lions lost 44-19 to eventual state runner-up Prairie Grove last season, but rebounded to upset eventual state semifinalist Pea Ridge 22-12 the following week. Three weeks later a pair of Lions turnovers led to a 33-21 loss against Shiloh Christian.
Those three teams are predicted to finish at the top of the conference this season, while league coaches picked the Lions to finish fourth.
For Prairie Grove to remain perfect with a win Friday, Abshier said his team needs to improve upon consistency.
“We’ve played really well at times. We’ve played really bad at times,” Abshier said. “We do some terrific stuff with a kick return for a touchdown and then fumble the next time and wonder ‘what the heck happened?’
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we do and try to improve on it, so that’s what we’re doing.”
The Tigers’ defense pitched a shutout in a 53-0 Week 3 win against West Fork and has yet to allow more than 14 points in a game while the offense has averaged 41 points per game with senior Zeke Laird in his first season starting under center.
“Zeke is in pursuit of a perfect score on the ACT, and he’s extremely close,” Abshier said. “That kind of transfers over to how he handles things on the field and in life. He’s a very sharp young man who wants to compete and compete to win.
“He’s looking at possibly going to West Point or something of that nature. A lot of doors have opened for Zeke because of that type of kid he is and he’s the one who is opening those doors.”
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
Harrelson on Prairie Grove ‘That’s a different animal’
Gravette is coming off a 33-0 shutout over Lincoln, but the Lions will have to play even better with Prairie Grove coming to town.
“Prairie Grove. That’s a different animal,” Gravette coach Bill Harrelson said.
Prairie Grove (4-0) is rolling again after reaching the state championship game in Class 4A last season. The Tigers are stout on defense and have a game-changer in Isaac Disney, who caught two touchdown passes and returned an interception for a score against West Fork.
Disney put on another show with a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown last week in a 41-12 victory over Huntsville.
“I’m always impressed with the way Prairie Grove executes its offense in that Wing-T and the way they run to the football on defense,” Harrelson said. “They’ve always been like that with (coach) Danny (Abshier).”
Gravette (3-1) jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead and held Lincoln to less than 100 total yards last week. Austin O’Brien rushed for 136 yards and added 109 yards receiving on six catches to pace the Lions on offense.
— Rick Fires • @NWARick
Saints to honor Williams with helmet stickers
Shiloh Christian will honor Springdale receiver Kyler Williams with helmet stickers — the same ones every 7A-West player will sport on Friday night. Williams died in an automobile accident shortly after 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’ve had several teachable moments in the past week,” Conaway said. “Several of our players were at Kyler’s funeral (Wednesday) and so was I — tough stuff.”
The Saints are not taking this week’s opponent lightly despite Huntsville’s 1-3 overall record. After defeating Green Forest 28-0 in the season opener, the Eagles have lost three straight against Farmington (43-0), at Elkins (46-16) and at Prairie Grove (41-12).
“I see a very scrappy football team that is capable of success, even though they haven’t won as many games as they would have hoped,” Conaway said. “Watching them on film, I see very tough, hard-nosed football players. You expect that from Huntsville, especially with coach (Randy Barnhill) because he’s a very demanding, very tough and hard-nosed coach.”
Shiloh Christian is 4-0 overall for the first time in a decade after beating Berryville 53-12 in the 4A-1 opener for both teams.
“We don’t dwell on anybody’s record and want to focus on us and doing the things we have to do to win,” Conaway said. “We’ve told them all week that (Huntsville) is a dangerous team, so we certainly will go in with respect for them as a team, and as a program.”
— Mike Capshaw * @NWACappy
Road gets tougher for upstart Elks
Elkins will have its talent and stamina tested in important road games in the 3A-1 Conference.
Elkins will leave at noon Friday for a game at Mountain View. The Elks return home for Marshall on Oct. 7 before making an even longer trip to Clinton on Oct. 14. Clinton is a former Class 4A school and the favorite to win the championship in the 3A-1 Conference.
The Yellowjackets (3-1) blasted Greenland 45-0 last week.
“It’ll be a challenge,” Elkins coach Chad Harbison said of the two road trips. “Except for the Shiloh Christian game, where we didn’t play well in the first quarter, we’ve done a really good job of getting a defensive stop and making plays early. That’s what we’ll need to do in those games, too.”
Elkins (3-1) tuned up for Mountain View (3-1) by routing Yellville-Summit 52-0. It was the third consecutive win for the Elks since losing 35-22 to Shiloh Christian to open the season.
— Rick Fires • @NWARick