Mark these dates down: Oct. 5, Oct. 12 and Nov. 2.
If history and preseason predictions are any indication, those dates will decide the 4A-1 Conference championship and how the top three seeds from the league will shake out.
SHINE ON …
NAME Tajae White
TWITTER HANDLE @tajae_white12
THE DIGITS Completed 66 of 154 passes for 794 yards and six touchdowns, then ran the ball 165 times for 904 yards and 10 scores. Defensively, he had an interception and recovered a fumble in limited action.
CRUSHING ON Football
I LISTEN TO All sorts of music — rap, a little Saudade, a little Iration, Black Boy JB.
I BINGE WATCH I just got done watching “Last Chance U: Season 3.” I also got done watching “Scandal” and “Quantico.”
I DRIVE A ‘03 Dodge Neon
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW How young I am. I’m a senior and I’m only 16. I won’t turn 17 until September.
MY HERO IS Probably my dad
FAVORITE MEAL I like chicken and rice with cheese — oven baked. That’s good stuff.
WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT FOOTBALL IS The bonding that you make, not only with your teammates but the other team as well.
IN 10 YEARS I WILL Hopefully doing physical therapy and owning my own business.
Hooten’s Coaches Poll
2017 4A-1 Conference Standings
Hooten’s Coaches Poll
2017 4A-4 Conference Standings
Shiloh Christian hosts Prairie Grove on Oct. 5. Prairie Grove hosts Pea Ridge on Oct. 12. Then, in the regular season finale on Nov. 2, Shiloh Christian travels to Pea Ridge.
Those three teams have sat atop the conference standings for years. In the Hooten's Arkansas Football poll of league coaches, Prairie Grove is picked to win it.
That is a safe pick. After all, the Tigers, under coach Danny Abshier, have won 10 or more games in five of the past six seasons.
Not so fast, though, said Abshier, who is 10 wins away from reaching the 200-win plateau for his career. The 4A-1 is as competitive as ever, and don't count out Gravette under first-year coach Doug Greenwood.
"Shiloh Christian is always very, very good, and they're going to be really good again," Abshier said. "You know Pea Ridge is going to be good. I think they're a lot like us because we both graduated a lot of seniors, and they've got a large pool of players to draw from.
"Gravette was hit hard by graduation, too, but I don't think it will take (Greenwood) long to get that monster rolling."
Senior Ethan Scates will be the Tigers' fourth different starting quarterback in as many years and gives the team a running threat while piloting its Wing-T offense. It also features the power running of senior Lane Dalton mixed in with speedsters like senior Garrett Heltemes.
"We won't be as flashy," Abshier said. "We don't have as much size, but we do have some speed. The main thing for us will be ball control. Can we sustain drives and can we play defense against everyone we'll face, and there are some good offenses?
"We have to outwork everyone else and if we do that, and play together, we'll be all right."
Shiloh Christian coach Jeff Conaway doesn't want to take preseason predictions for granted either. He avoided making predictions about other teams, but said he "likes the way our team is coming to work and coming together." The team is led by playmaker Jaret Russ, two-way star Micah Button and offensive lineman Logan Kalleson, the league's top college prospect in the Class of 2019.
"We're going to have to capitalize in the big games. We did that last year in Week 10 (a 17-14 home win against Pea Ridge)," Conway said. "We're going to have to play extremely well every single week. There are a lot of strong teams in our league and every one of them is capable of beating you.
"You have to show up to play every week."
Pea Ridge lost several playmakers off last year's team that reached the state semifinals. The Blackhawks, who are two years removed from a state finals appearance, will rely heavily on a veteran defense behind senior defensive end Mike Mahoney and senior linebacker Tristin Brewer, among others.
"The preseason things, the rankings, it's great for high school football," said Blackhawks coach Stephen Neal. "That gets people pumped up and it gets people excited. But, in the end, I don't really pay a whole lot of attention about that.
"We're Pea Ridge and we can only control what we do. We're focused on us and how good we can get, not about the other teams."
Tears were shed among conference teams when it was determined that Booneville was moving down to Class 3A. They were tears of joy.
With the bully Bearcats now in the 3A-1, the league has a new look, but purple is still expected to reign as Ozark, with a ton of experienced seniors back, is the league favorite.
The Hillbillies were 9-3 last season and are primed to make a deep run, perhaps like the 2012 team that played for the state title. But the road to the league title won't be an easy one as Mena, Pottsville, Dardanelle and Elkins are all quality teams.
Ozark coach Jeremie Burns said the conference would be just as tough without Booneville.
"You look at Elkins and they have some big skill guys back," Burns said. "They had a great season last year, and Mena coming into the league and they will be good. Then you throw in Pottsville and Dardanelle. It's going to be a tough conference."
Excitement is high at Elkins with a new stadium and the Elks will put a talented team on the field under new coach Bryan Hutson, who was hired late in the spring to replace former coach Chad Harbison, who took a coaching position at Fayetteville.
Hutson has three elite skill position players in junior quarterback Quinn McClain, running back Chance Jones and wide receiver Chad Graham. Depth will be the key issue for Elkins in the move to 4A.
Sports on 08/23/2018
Print Headline: CLASS 4A: Prairie Grove still the team to beat