PEA RIDGE -- The nose of the football was touching the 5-yard line as the fourth quarter reached the halfway point.
Pea Ridge Coach Stephen Neal, with his Blackhawks holding a 19-14 lead at the time, said the decision was made to attempt a field goal to make it an eight-point game.
An offsides penalty against Prairie Grove changed everything. Instead of facing fourth and goal from the 5, the ball was moved to the 3, and there was no doubt about what Pea Ridge would do next.
Put the ball in the hands of Drew Winn.
Winn took the direct snap and plowed into the line, somehow getting twisted around. He fell backward on top of a teammate, but kept his feet pushing until he landed on his back in the end zone.
Winn's third touchdown of the night proved to be the difference in Pea Ridge's 26-21 victory in a huge 1-4A Conference game in Blackhawks Stadium.
"We were just trying to grind the clock down a little bit, then we were going to send our field goal team in," Neal said. "That's because of [Prairie Grove's] red-zone defense. They are well known for once the ball gets inside the 10-yard line, they are very tough to score on. So we were going to just take whatever points we could get. Fortunately for us, they got a penalty, then there was never a doubt or hesitation on who we were going to give the ball to."
Turnovers played a crucial role in the outcome as Prairie Grove (6-1, 3-1 1-4A) turned the ball over three times, the last one with under two minutes left when it looked like the Tigers were about to pull out their 26th consecutive regular-season victory.
After Winn's score gave Pea Ridge (7-0, 4-0) a 26-14 lead with 6:03 left in the game, it took the Tigers just three plays and 31 seconds to climb back into it as quarterback John David Elder connected with Colin Bryant on a 70-yard touchdown strike to make it 26-21.
The Tigers then forced a three-and-out and took over at their own 25 with under four minutes left. Prairie Grove marched quickly across midfield, thanks to a 27-yard run around the left side by Anthony Johnson to the Pea Ridge 30. But three plays later the Tigers turned it over on a fumble, and the Blackhawks were able to hold on.
"We turned the ball over three times, and we haven't been turning the ball over all year," Prairie Grove Coach Danny Abshier said. "It's a different game if we don't turn it over. So turnovers hurt, missed blocks hurt, missed tackles hurt, they just beat us."
While turnovers were key, a huge defensive play by the Blackhawks at the end of the first half was also a factor. Prairie Grove forced a Pea Ridge fumble with under a minute left in the half, then Elder hit Stone Bryant for 52 yards down the middle of the field to the Blackhawks 8. But with the clock under 10 seconds, Elder was flushed out of the pocket and brought down at the 2 as the horn sounded.
Winn's three touchdowns capped another stellar night for the senior, who finished with 181 yards on 31 carries. Johnson also had a big night for the Tigers with 153 yards on 19 carries.Gallery: Prarie Grove vs Pea Ridge
Pea Ridge players celebrate with fans Friday after defeating Prairie Grove at Blackhawk Stadium in Pea Ridge.
Pea Ridge linebacker Gavin Warden (26) latches on to Prairie Grove running back Anthony Johnson on Friday at Blackhawk Stadium in Pea Ridge.
Sports on 10/14/2017
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