PRAIRIE GROVE -- Friday's nonconference football contest won by Prairie Grove, 35-33, over Pea Ridge resembled a boxing match at times.
The Blackhawks landed a flurry of punches in the fourth quarter but couldn't knock Prairie Grove down nor out. Pea Ridge scored twice in 2:45 with the second touchdown coming after successfully recovering an onside kick to trim the Tigers' lead to 35-33, but a final piece to the puzzle was denied them when Prairie Grove defended a 2-point conversion attempt and a pass fell incomplete.
The victory was sweet for Prairie Grove seniors leading the team to consecutive wins over 5A schools and breaking losing streaks of two games against Farmington and three games against Pea Ridge.
Senior Tiger quarterback Knox Laird completed 11-of-16 passes for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. Junior receiver Landon Semrad caught 4 passes for 82 yards and touchdowns of 48 and 22 yards as the Tigers fought to a 14-14 halftime tie.
"We feel great. The past couple seasons we started off pretty bad. My sophomore year we started off 0-2. Last year we started off 0-3 so it feels really good to start off nonconference undefeated right now," Knox Laird said. "The offensive line is a lot better than they were last year and they've done a good job protecting me for the most part and also we have Landon Semrad who is a great weapon and so we're able to use him, which we didn't have last year."
Senior receiver Jackson Sorters caught 4 passes for 48 yards and an 11-yard touchdown that lifted the Tigers to a 28-14 advantage with just under four minutes left in the third quarter.
"It feels good. They got us two years in a row. They've gone up to 5A so luckily we still got to play them and we played our hearts out tonight," Sorters said.
Pea Ridge answered with the first of three touchdown passes caught by Trevor Blair from Zak Withrow. However, Prairie Grove blocked the extra-point kick making the score 28-20 with 11:11 remaining in the game.
Prairie Grove took the Blackhawks' best shots but never went down, gamely battling against a surge of momentum Pea Ridge rode after falling behind 35-20 when Cade Grant reeled off a 34-yard touchdown run and Paytin Higgins' PAT kick completed the Tiger scoring at the 5:22 mark of the fourth.
"It was a sloppy win, but a win's a win," Grant said. "We got to learn from all the mistakes we made and go into practice next week and clean up for Stilwell."
The run impressed Prairie Grove coach Danny Abshier, who describes Grant as a better runner with improved strength and bulk, increasing 18 pounds from last year without any loss of speed. Grant absorbed a hit at the goal line but powered his way into the end zone.
"Somebody had an angle on him and he slips that guy," Abshier said. "The next guy had an angle on him and he [Grant] was way strong, it was a good choice because he's heavy [bulked up to 200 pounds] and he's way strong. That lifting that coach Craig Laird puts them through, that paid off right there cause he just took it right in the house there and that guy kind of slid off his back."
Grant carried 8 times for 77 yards and two touchdowns including a 7-yard scoring run in the third. Fullback Foster Layman added 63 yards on 13 carries.
Pea Ridge backup quarterback Zak Withrow played because of an injury and completed a pair of 39-yard passes to Trevor Blair, then capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass. Colin Stewart's kick drew the visitors within eight points, at 35-27, with 4:08 remaining and the Blackhawks recovered an onside kick.
"It was back-and-forth. We sure helped them out a lot we felt like in the first half with those two turnovers. We helped them out with that onside kick, we knew it was coming," Abshier said. "Hats off to them, they didn't shut down, but on the other hand we came out on top. We hadn't been 2-0 in awhile and it feels good and Pea Ridge is a good opponent."
Starting from the Tiger 48, Withrow picked up where he left off by throwing 33 yards to Marcus Nobles for a first down at Prairie Grove's 15, but the drive halted at the 16 when Ryder Orr tackled a runner for a 1-yard loss followed by two incomplete passes. David Hall cut down Withrow three yards behind the line of scrimmage on a quarterback draw forcing a turnover on downs with 3:09 to play.
Prairie Grove could not run out the clock, fumbling the ball on third down, and getting stopped for no gain when trying to convert fourth-and-one from the 28.
Six plays later Pea Ridge found the end zone with Blair scoring on a 9-yard pass and bringing fans into a frenzy for both teams with the crucial 2-point conversion coming up.
"We had real trouble covering Blair tonight. We just couldn't stay with him," Abshier said.
Pea Ridge expended its final time-out before the attempt then ran Withrow to the right. He couldn't find an open receiver and as defenders closed in threw a desperation pass that landed harmlessly on the grass.
Caden Redfern recovered another Blackhawk onside kick and this time the Tigers ran the clock down to zero securing the 35-33 victory. On Friday, Prairie Grove goes on the road taking on former Lincoln coach Don Harrison, who guided Stilwell, Okla., to a 32-8 win over Gentry last week.
PRAIRIE GROVE 35, PEA RIDGE 33
Pea Ridge -- Joe Adams 2-yard run (Colin Stewart kick), 4:20
Prairie Grove -- Landon Semrad 48-yard pass from Knox Laird (Paytin Higgins kick), 3:19
Prairie Grove -- Landon Semrad 22-yard pass from Knox Laird (Paytin Higgins kick), 4:56
Pea Ridge -- Trevor Blair 14-yard pass from Zak Withrow (Colin Stewart kick), 0:14
Prairie Grove-- Cade Grant 7-yard run (Paytin Higgins kick), 9:11
Prairie Grove -- Jackson Sorters 11-yard pass from Knox Laird (Paytin Higgins kick), 3:59
Pea Ridge -- Trevor Blair 18-yard pass from Zak Withrow (kick blocked), 11:11
Prairie Grove -- Cade Grant 34-yard run (Paytin Higgins kick), 5:22
Pea Ridge -- Trevor Blair 7-yard pass from Zak Withrow (Colin Stewart kick), 4:08
Pea Ridge -- Trevor Blair 9-yard pass from Zak Withrow (pass failed), 1:23
Prairie Grove^Pea Ridge
RUSHING -- Prairie Grove, Cade Grant 8-77, Foster Layman 13-63, Ethan Miller 4-20, Knox Laird 9-19, David Hall 2-2, Totals 36-181. Pea Ridge, Joe Adams 20-71, Zak Withrow 11-22, Trevor Blair 2-17, Cade Mann 5-11, Carlos Martinez 2 (-2). Totals 39-119.
PASSING -- Prairie Grove, Knox Laird 11-16-160-3-0. Pea Ridge, Zak Withrow 10-25-220-2-2.
RECEIVING -- Prairie Grove, Landon Semrad 4-82, Jackson Sorters 4-48, Caden Redfern 2-21, Cade Grant 1-9, Totals 11-160. Pea Ridge, Trevor Blair 8-191, Cade Mann 1-27, Will Anderson 1-2. Totals 10-220.
Prairie Grove vs. Pea Ridge Football Scores
Oct. 22, 2010^Prairie Grove^(4-6, 2-5), Pea Ridge^(1-9, 0-7)^Prairie Grove^20-6
Oct. 21, 2011^Prairie Grove^(8-4, 5-2), Pea Ridge^(4-6, 2-5)^Prairie Grove^13-0
Oct. 19, 2012^Prairie Grove^(12-1, 7-0), Pea Ridge^(10-2, 6-1)^Prairie Grove^31-0
Oct. 25, 2013^Prairie Grove^(10-2, 7-0), Pea Ridge^(3-7, 1-6)^Prairie Grove^35-28
Oct. 17, 2014^Prairie Grove^(7-4, 5-2)^Pea Ridge^(10-1, 7-0)^Pea Ridge^28-20
Oct. 16, 2015^Prairie Grove^(13-2, 7-0)^Pea Ridge^(11-3, 5-2)^Prairie Grove^40-16
Oct. 14, 2016^Prairie Grove^(12-1, 7-0)^Pea Ridge^(13-2, 6-1)^Prairie Grove^42-21
Oct. 13, 2017^Prairie Grove^(11-2, 6-1)^Pea Ridge^(12-2, 6-1)^Pea Ridge^26-21
Oct. 12, 2018^Prairie Grove^(5-6, 3-4)^Pea Ridge^(7-4, 6-1)^Pea Ridge^39-28
Oct. 18, 2019^Prairie Grove^(4-7, 4-3)^Pea Ridge^(8-5, 6-1)^Pea Ridge^57-28
Sept. 11, 2020^Prairie Grove^(2-0, 0-0)^Pea Ridge^(0-2, 0-0)^Prairie Grove^35-33*