PRAIRIE GROVE -- An uncharacteristic three-and-out all on incomplete passes nullified recovery of an onside kick to open Friday's contest against Berryville before Prairie Grove rallied for a 22-7 victory.
A hard-hitting Berryville squad captured a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. Prairie Grove fumbled the ensuing kickoff, then handed the ball off only to have the kick returner tackled at the Tigers' six creating an uphill battle.
"We got off to a real slow start, I think we under-estimated these guys," Abshier said. "I have a lot of respect for those Berryville guys. I think Coach (Doug) Schott's a good choice for Berryville to have as a head coach. He's changing them around."
Prairie Grove gained 35 yards on its second possession before turning the ball over on downs inside Bobcat territory at the 38. Berryville then maintained possession for the next 5:42 driving 62 yards in 13 plays to score on J.D. Smith's 1-yard quarterback sneak with 10:06 to play in the first half.
Armando Mojica's extra-point kick gave the Bobcats a lead over Prairie Grove, something they have rarely enjoyed since their last win (14-6) in the series on Oct. 13, 2006.
Prairie Grove football historian and play-by-play announcer Lynn Gregson, who keeps track of records, said Friday's win gives Prairie Grove a 25-24 edge in the all-time series. According to Gregson, until 1996 Berryville held a 22-4 advantage in head-to-head competition against Prairie Grove. Since then the Tigers have dominated winning 21 of the last 23 contests.
"We get the onside kick, three-and-out, I think that describes it," Abshier said. "We were taking them a little light. We thought it would be easy. We didn't block well. We didn't throw well. We didn't tackle well. We didn't play defense well. Finally it's like, we are going to have to get after it or these guys are going to be on top of us. So we started playing harder, kept our heads and didn't panic, which, sometimes teams can do that. You know they can, 'oh no, what's happening here?' And just kind of lose your head, but I thought we used momentum well."
The Tigers displayed heart, marching 94 yards grinding out a time-consuming 22-play drive capped by Garrett Heltemes' 2-yard touchdown carry and Cade Walker's kick to tie the game at 7-7 with 19 seconds left before halftime.
Other than the one touchdown that they gave up, Prairie Grove's defense was equal to the task keeping the Tigers in the game until they found a way to capture the lead on Cade Grant's 51-yard run in the third quarter.
"I think Craig Laird figured out how to stop them, that makes all the difference in the world cause they sure looked like they were going to be able to play our game -- drive it, drive it, drive it and score," Abshier said.
The extra-point failed and the Tigers weren't out of the woods holding a 13-6 lead. A fourth quarter drive bogged down and Prairie Grove was forced to punt.
Then the Tigers got a break leading to a safety and an eight-point cushion, at 15-7, when Berryville was flagged for unsportmanship conduct and fumbled the ball out of the end zone.
"Finally, you know, and that's in the fourth quarter," Abshier said. "Berryville's extremely tough. They played hard. They came to play and did some things. We couldn't stick with blocks long enough. They were aggressive. They had a great plan from their coach. The defensive coach did a good job."
Following the safety, Berryville got a free kick from the 20 and Prairie Grove took advantage of a short field driving 52 yards in 8 plays to seal the game on Ethan Guenther's 1-yard quarterback sneak with 1:36 to play.
"I didn't think he threw any too good tonight, I don't think he showed off what he really can do," Abshier said of his senior quarterback. "And that's probably our fault for not sticking to the game plan, throwing some different passes than we'd been practicing on, different receivers, changed sets up, had some pressure, got poked a couple of times. So, he's a gutsy kid. He's really strong, another one that's just super-easy to work with. He's very calm and wants the team to do well, not from just the quarterback perspective and the leader perspective, he's just that kind of guy, 'I'm going to take care of everybody." I can put him at any position. I can put anybody out there and say, 'just ask Ethan.' Put another guy out at a different position and he'll probably know what that kid's supposed to do."
Walker made the P.A.T. despite being roughed by the Bobcats, who were flagged with 15 yards marked off on the ensuing kickoff.
PRAIRIE GROVE, BERRYVILLE
Berryville^0^7^0 ^0 -- 7
Prairie Grove^0^7^6^9 -- 22
Berryville -- J.D. Smith 1-yard run (Armando Mojica kick), 10:06.
Prairie Grove -- Garrett Heltemes 1-yard run (Cade Walker kick), 0:19.
Prairie Grove -- Cade Grant 51-yard run (Cade Walker kick), 8:21.
Prairie Grove -- Safety ball fumbled out of end zone 6:16.
Prairie Grove -- Ethan Guenther 1-yard run (Cade Walker kick), 1:36.
Sports on 10/31/2018
Print Headline: Tigers Sorely Tested By Bobcats