Pea Ridge was ripe for an upset, but Lincoln failed to contain the quarterback on fourth-and-two allowing the Blackhawks to overcome Wolf dominance in the first quarter.
Thinking among Pea Ridge fans was "Lincoln's 4-0 start and road trip to Blackhawk Stadium offered the Wolves a chance to see how good they are. While acknowledging Lincoln came in with a better record than Pea Ridge's 2-2 start, critics pointed to the Wolves' schedule, calling it the weakest among all of Arkansas 4A teams; and claiming the Wolves had yet to be really tested in spite of their win over Gravette.
According to Pea Ridge coach Stephen Neal, on film, at least, Lincoln appeared bigger and more athletic this year. Neal described Lincoln quarterback Caleb Lloyd as shifty and throwing a good ball. Lloyd came into Friday's contest having completed 51 of 91 passes for a 56 percent completion rate with 8 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Needless to say, Lincoln's philosophy didn't exactly echo those sentiments.
"We look at every game as a win to the point of we think we can compete and win in every game," said Lincoln coach Don Harrison describing the Wolves' philosophy during preseason.
From the Wolves' point-of-view, Pea Ridge's 42-0 shutout of Farmington in week three might have been an anomaly. The Cardinals could not have possibly performed any worse than they did with critical mistakes in key situations playing right into Pea Ridge's hands. In addition, three Pea Ridge players had to sit out Friday's contest against Lincoln for disciplinary reasons after getting into a scuffle with Gentry.
All of this provided a recipe Lincoln hoped would bring success. The Wolves preferred to come in as the underdog. Yet, 24 unanswered Blackhawk points erased an early 7-0 Lincoln lead and gave Pea Ridge a 24-14 Homecoming win over the Wolves Friday. Pea Ridge quarterback Tate Busey triggered the swing in momentum. Busey completed 10-of-20 passes for 208 yards and touchdowns. The Wolves intercepted him three times.
Pea Ridge dominated the second half statistically, outgaining the Wolves 219 to 80 in total offense. Pea Ridge finished with a 312-182 advantage in yards from scrimmage, but the contest didn't start out that way.
Lincoln's defensive unit was all over the Blackhawks in the first period holding Pea Ridge to five yards on the first three possessions. Lincoln got its offense going the second time the Wolves had the ball behind the passing of Lloyd, who polished off a time-consuming, 15-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Noe Avellanda kicked the P.A.T. and the Wolves owned a 7-0 advantage inside two minutes to play in the first.
Lincoln held Samuel Beard in check on three consecutive runs and Pea Ridge set up in punt formation on fourth-and-three at Lincoln's 45-yard-line midway in the second quarter. Busey, who also serves as Pea Ridge's punter, ran for three yards to convert fourth-and-two.
The play demoralized Lincoln and rejuvenated Pea Ridge. The Blackhawks converted two third-downs and Busey capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown. Luis Reyes' P.A.T. kick tied the score at 7-7, which was still on the scoreboard at halftime.
A costly turnover ended Lincoln's first possession of the third quarter. Carson Rhine's pick gave Pea Ridge the ball on their own 33. A short pass from Busey to Payton Galbraith converted a third down and went 36 yards to the Lincoln 31. Pea Ridge reached the Lincoln 17 before the Wolves held on three runs setting up Reyes' 34-yard field goal which pushed Pea Ridge into a 10-7 lead.
Lincoln punted away its next possession and Pea Ridge took over at the Wolves' 44. The Blackhawks faced fourth-and-3, but got off the hook as Lincoln surrendered a 37-yard touchdown pass from Busey to Brayden Ralph with 5:19 to go in the third. The score put Pea Ridge up 17-7.
Lincoln tried to answer with Lloyd finding four different receivers to move the ball to the Pea Ridge 30-yard-line. The drive stalled with yet another sack. On fourth-and-3, Rhine's interception in front of the goal line and 29-yard return to the 30 flipped the field. Pea Ridge mounted a 70-yard march to open up a 24-7 lead on Busey's pass to Galbraith.
Lincoln's offense had a rough start to the fourth quarter, but on fourth-and-15 Lloyd's punt sailed 58 yards, pinning the Blackhawks at their own 18. Lincoln got a turnover with an interception. The Wolves sent out their offense at the Pea Ridge 27. Lincoln found pay dirt on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Lloyd to Sterling Morphis. Hunter Phelan kicked the point - after pulling Lincoln within two scores, at 24-14, with 8:31 remaining.
The teams exchanged punts and Lincoln got the ball back after forcing a Pea Ridge punt with 2:35 left in the fourth.
Lloyd was on target passing to Phelan and Morphis, then mixed in a pair of quarterback keepers as Lincoln advanced to the Blackhawk 32. Pea Ridge sacked Lloyd twice to set up an extremely challenging fourth and 32, then sacked him again to seal the game.
Lincoln celebrates Homecoming this week with the ceremony scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Wolfpack Stadium followed by a 7 p.m. kickoff as the Wolves take on Berryville.
MARK HUMPHREY IS A SPORTS WRITER FOR THE ENTERPRISE-LEADER.Sports on 10/03/2018
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