GRAVETTE -- Bill Harrelson stood in the center of a sea of black and orange as his players knelt around him.
The longtime Gravette football coach tried to hold his emotions in check. Eventually the tears rolled down his cheeks.
Gravette 24, Shiloh Christian 19
Shiloh — Carr 18 blocked punt return (Reece kick), :54.
Grav — O’Brien 11 run (Childress kick), 6:15
Grav — FG Childress 34, 1:20
Grav — O’Brien 59 pass from White (Childress kick), 8:35
Grav — White 26 run (Childress kick), 2:53
Shiloh — Brown 4 run (Kick failed), 2:00
Shiloh — Neal 34 pass from Brown (Run failed), 1:36
Gravette had not beaten Shiloh Christian since 2002, but his Lions came up with big plays when they needed it in a 24-19 win that secured the No. 3 seed in the 4A-1 Conference and a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
The Lions (5-4, 4-2 4A-1) dominated the second half and held a potent Shiloh Christian offense in check most of the night to secure a win Harrelson had been waiting a long time for.
The game featured a number of big plays, but perhaps the biggest, at least early, was Gravette turning away the Saints (6-3, 4-2) at the Lions' 1 by stone-walling Shiloh Christian three straight plays, then forcing a fourth down fumble. Although the Lions did not turn it into points, that set the tone for the game, Harrelson said.
"That was just huge," Harrelson said. "Our defense played unbelievably all night. I mean Shiloh's offense is Shiloh's offense and good like they usually are and our defense just played unbelievable all night."
Shiloh did not score an offensive touchdown in the first half, but still managed to grab a 7-0 lead as Preston Hall blocked a Gravette punt and Caleb Carr scooped the ball up at the 18 and raced into the end zone with 54 seconds left in the first half.
Plays like that have dogged Gravette in games against Shiloh Christian over the years, but this time the Lions refused to wilt, said senior Austin O'Brien. The Lions were able to find some success against the Saints' defense early in the second half and finally broke through midway through the third quarter.
The Lions came up with a big fourth-down stop as Shiloh Christian went for it on fourth and 1 at their own 29. Jaret Russ was thrown for a 3-yard loss and Gravette took advantage, as O'Brien scored on an 11-yard run with 6:15 left in the third quarter to tie the score at 7-7.
Gravette extended the lead to 10-7 on Chris Childress' 34-yard field goal with 1:20 left in the third quarter after a sensational 20-yard catch by senior Brady Moorman who went over a Shiloh Christian defender to bring in the pass to keep the drive alive.
But it was O'Brien who delivered the play of the game for Gravette. O'Brien, who led the conference in rushing coming into the game with more than 1,600 yards, was bottled up most of the night by a swarming Saints defense. So Harrelson attacked in a different way, sending O'Brien out in a pass pattern, and Tajae White lofted a pass to the left flat that O'Brien ran under, than put a juke move on a Saints defender near the 10 and waltzed into the end zone.
"You just got to trust your quarterback," O'Brien said of White. "Perfect ball, perfect spiral. I caught it, and I was up the field and just did an instinct move and got in the end zone."
O'Brien's score extended Gravette's lead to 17-7, and White later added a 26-yard scoring run.
Shiloh Christian scored two quick touchdowns late, the second on a 34-yard pass from Landon Brown to Reagan Neal after the Saints recovered an onside kick to pull within 24-19. But the Lions recovered a second Shiloh Christian onside kick attempt and Gravette ran out the clock.
Gravette will travel to Gentry next week, while Shiloh Christian hosts No. 1 Pea Ridge in the regular season finales.
Sports on 10/28/2017
Print Headline: Gravette ends long drought against Shiloh Christian