Pine Bluff (11-1)
West Memphis (10-2)
El Dorado (9-2)
Lake Hamilton (5-6)
Siloam Springs (2-8)
Mountain Home (1-9)
LR Hall (1-9)
No. 2 Pine Bluff vs. No. 1 Greenwood: These are the winningest 6A schools since 2009, and one or both have played for a state title every year since 2008. This is the fifth meeting in six years, including previous state title showdowns in 2012 and 2015. Pine Bluff snapped Greenwood’s 50-game winning streak in the 2013 semifinals, but Greenwood punted Pine Bluff in last year’s semis 31-30.
Pine Bluff, the 6A East champion, invades War Memorial Stadium on an 11-game winning streak. Pine Bluff played for state titles every year from 2012-2015 and won in 2014 and 2015. The Zebras own quality wins this fall over Class 7A Fort Smith Northside, West Memphis and Searcy (twice). Pine Bluff scored 28 unanswered points on its way to a 34-14 semifinal win over Searcy. “This has become one of my favorite teams,” Coach Bobby Bolding says. “It’s a bunch of really good high school players who have worked their butts off every week since the spring. Whatever they can do to fix something, they’ve done that. They accepted the challenge, and it’s rewarding to see young people respond that way.”
Senior linebackers Martavis Thompson and Isaiah Singleton collaborate with safety Rod Stinson Jr. and defensive lineman Kavon Goins on a defense that allows just 16 points per game, second-best in Class 6A. Pine Bluff’s offense flows behind senior receiver Jyrimee Thompson, junior running back Braylon Moody and sophomore QB Tyler Foots. Foots completed 11 of 21 passes last week for 130 yards and three TDs with 166 yards rushing against Searcy. Thompson corralled seven passes for 110 yards and three scores including an interception return for a TD and Moody ran for 99 yards. For the third straight year, 6A West champion Greenwood finished 10-0 in the regular season and will play for the state title, but the Bulldogs settled for runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2016. Greenwood has earned 10 conference titles since 2004. Greenwood boasts the top scoring offense (43.2 PPG) and defense (11 PPG) in 6A football. Greenwood defended its home field last week, literally and figuratively, from West Memphis after Blue Devil football players danced on Greenwood’s logo at the 50-yard line during warmups. Greenwood responded by scoring 38 unanswered points to trigger the sportsmanship rule en route to a 45-14 semifinal rout. Senior QB and University of Arkansas commit Connor Noland connected on 21 of 30 passes for 220 yards and four TDs against West Memphis. Senior running back Kenny Wood bruised the Blue Devils for 132 rushing yards and two TDs while adding four catches for 57 yards and two scores. Greenwood’s first-string defense allowed one TD to West Memphis. Senior linebackers Nick Vota (43 tackles, 38 for loss and eight sacks) and Camden Beshears (88 tackles, 21 TFL and four sacks), and all-state lineman Jon Womack (80 tackles, 26 TFL and team-high 11.5 sacks) pace the Greenwood defense.
Bolding says Greenwood poses a number of problems: “The running back is a real issue because he runs so dang hard. Then the QB is wheelin’ and dealin’ and making throws. Then, if you can cover their receivers, the QB takes off and makes plays with his legs.”
Greenwood owns a sizable advantage on both lines, and junior kicker Grant Ennis (50 touchbacks) has made 10 of 12 field goals this year with a long of 37 yards.
Hootens.com correctly picked both winners last week in games involving 6A teams. For the season, Hootens.com has correctly predicted 83 of 98 games (85 percent).
WEEK 14 TITLE GAME PREDICTION (favored team in CAPS followed by point spread)
Pine Bluff vs. GREENWOOD (7)
Pulaski Robinson (12-0)
Pea Ridge (12-1)
Prairie Grove (11-2)
Southside Batesville (10-2)
Heber Springs (8-4)
Shiloh Christian (7-4)
Jonesboro Westside (7-4)
Star City (4-6)
Fountain Lake (4-6)
Subiaco Academy (2-8)
West Fork (0-10)
Cave City (0-10)
Baptist Prep (0-10)
WEEK 14 PREDICTIONS (favored team in CAPS followed by point spread)
ARKADELPHIA (6) at Pea Ridge: A rematch of last year’s first round game that Pea Ridge won 30-24. Arkadelphia fumbled in the red zone with less than 5 minutes left and the score tied 20-20, allowing Pea Ridge to drive for the winning score in the final minute. The Badgers fumbled twice and had a field goal blocked.
Arkadelphia’s lone blemish this season was 21-17 Week 5 at Joe T. Robinson. The Badgers have won seven straight (received a Week 11 forfeit from Helena-West Helena Central) by an average of 56-9. They advance to the semifinals for the second time in three years. Linebackers Josh Wallace (70 tackles), a junior, senior Josh Burnham (60 tackles) and sophomore Kyren Harrison are the top tacklers for a unit that has allowed more than one TD in just three games. Junior safety Victor Tademy has 31 tackles and six interceptions, while cornerback Dillion Scott averages 3 tackles per game and has three interceptions. “The mark of a great defense is one that flies to the ball and creates turnovers,” Pea Ridge coach Stephen Neal says. “Arkadelphia does that.”
Sophomore quarterback Cannon Turner has started every game the past two seasons. He ran for 154 yards and three TDs in last week’s 52-point win over Ashdown. Turner has completed 68 of 125 passes this season (54 percent) for 979 yards and 11 TDs, and rushed for 874 yards and 11 TDs. Junior Zion Hatley 184 carries for 1,503 yards and 29 TDs in 11 games, and he returned a kickoff 95 yards for a TD in the quarterfinals.
Pea Ridge returns to the semifinals for the third time in four years after sharing the 1-4A title this fall. The Blackhawks rallied past Booneville last week 22-19, scoring the winning TD in the fourth quarter. They average 37 points and 398 yards per game this season. Senior Drew Winn fuels the attack with 250 carries for 2,170 yards and 31 TDs, including the winning jaunt at Booneville. Winn also provides a reliable outlet in the passing attack, averaging 9 yards per catch. Senior QB Jakota Sainsbury completes 152 of 238 passes (64 percent) for 2,275 yards and 26 TDs with eight interceptions. Senior Hayden Holtgrewe has 72 receptions for 1,170 yards and 13 TDs while Jordan Witcher has 53 catches for 777 yards and 10 TDs.
The Blackhawks have allowed just 40 points the past four weeks, including 26 in the playoffs. Junior linebacker Tristan Brewer has 141 tackles and five sacks, while sophomore Adam Trammell has 84 stops. Junior cornerback Carson Rhine has 83 tackles and seven interceptions.