Scrappers knocked out of playoffs by Prairie Grove
By John R. Schirmer
PRAIRIE GROVE – The season ended for the Nashville Scrappers Friday night on a cold field in northwest Arkansas.
Prairie Grove (12-0) came from behind to defeat the Scrappers 41-34 in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A playoffs. The loss left the Scrappers with a 10-3 record after the squad went 6-7 in 2011.
“Prairie Grove played as well as they could play,” Coach Billy Dawson said. “They had no mistakes. They took advantage of some big throws and big catches. They didn’t have any turnovers.”
The Scrappers had two turnovers, including an interception and a fumble. “The swing of those things made the difference,” Dawson said.
Nashville built a 28-14 lead in the third quarter, but Prairie Grove’s performance the previous week kept Scrapper fans from being comfortable with the lead.
“We were up 14. That’s the same as [Prairie Grove] last week at Pottsville,” Dawson said. “Two scores don’t mean they shut down. I thought if we could get one more defensive stop and a touchdown, we’d have it.”
The Tigers put up 27 points in the fourth quarter to secure the victory and advance to next week’s semifinals at Stuttgart.
Prairie Grove began closing the gap early in the final period on a 34-yard pass with 11:35 to go in the game. The Tigers followed that score with a 20-yard scoring pass at the 7:02 mark. With less than two minutes in the game, Prairie Grove struck again, this time on a 4-yard run.
The Tigers’ final TD came on a 50-yard return of an onside kick by the Scrappers.
The game began as a defensive struggle. The teams fought to a 0-0 tie at the end of the first quarter.
Scrapper quarterback Joel Hendry scored on a 13-yard run with 6:35 remaining in the second period. Jalen Whitmore’s PAT gave Nashville a 7-0 lead.
Prairie Grove answered with 3:49 left before halftime on a 40-yard pass. The extra point left the game tied 7-7 at halftime.
The Scrappers outscored Prairie Grove 21-7 in the third quarter.
Hendry hit LaVonte Thomas with a 7-yard touchdown pass with 9:29 left in the quarter. The PAT was no good, giving Nashville a 13-7 lead.
Prairie Grove went up by a point with a 47-yard scoring pass on a broken play and a successful PAT with 6:38 to go in the third quarter.
The Scrappers struck two minutes later when Ja-Karee Gaines caught a 13 yard touchdown pass from Hendry. Thomas made the 2-point conversion on a 2-yard pass from Hendry.
Nashville scored again with 2:10 in the third quarter on a 62-yard run by Gaines. Whitmore made the PAT to give Nashville a 28-14 lead.
Then came Prairie Grove’s 27-point fourth quarter.
The Tigers’ third touchdown put them ahead 35-28 with less than 2 minutes to go. “We let them score there [from the 4-yardline] to get the ball back,” Dawson said.
The move gave the Scrappers the opportunity Dawson wanted. Nashville needed only 3 plays to score when Donyell King caught a 36-yard pass from Hendry with 1:18 to go in the game and brought the Scrappers to within 1at 35-34.
At that point, the Scrappers went for a 2-point conversion. “We decided to go for 2 for the win,” Dawson said. A successful 1-point conversion would have left the game tied and likely sent it into overtime.
“I didn’t want to be on a 10-yard field [in overtime] the way they were moving the ball,” Dawson said of the overtime prospect. “We went for 2. I’d do it again. We played to win it.”
The Scrappers “had a good play called” on the 2-point attempt, Dawson said.
However, a fumbled snap cost the Scrappers their conversion opportunity and left them down by a point late in the fourth quarter.
From there, Nashville went for the onside kick in hopes of getting the ball back in time to score again.
Prairie Grove’s Colby Elkins caught the ball in the air and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown with 1:06 left on the clock.The Tigers missed the PAT and led 41-34.
The quick score left the Scrappers with one last opportunity. “It was good because we got the ball back,” Dawson said.
Thomas caught a 25-yard pass from Hendry and set the Scrappers up with good field position with less than 20 seconds remaining.
However, Nashville was unable to score and Prairie Grove had the win.
Despite the final outcome, Dawson found some positives from the game. “We had plenty of opportunities,” he said.
Just playing the day after Thanksgiving was a plus for the Scrappers. “It’s always good to play on Thanksgiving weekend.”
Gaines “played hard,” Dawson said. “It’s good to see kids out in a game of that magnitude with a chance to win. We played hard. Prairie Grove played hard.”
In his final performance as quarterback, Hendry completed 22 of 37 passes for 328 hards and 3 touchdowns. He ended the season with 215 completions on 334 attempts and 3,653 yards. He passed for 47 touchdowns while throwing only 9 interceptions.
King was the leading receiver against Prairie Grove with 8 catches for 163 yards.
Thomas caught 6 passes for 83 yards. Tesean Green had 50 yards on 3 catches. Gaines added 23 yards on 4 catches, and Kyler Lawrence had one catch for 9 yards.
Gaines was the leading rusher with 16 carries for 145 yards.
Nashville’s scoring included 2 touchdowns from Gaines and 1 each from King, Thomas and Hendry.
The Scrapper roster included 23 seniors. “They had a good year. All of them contributed and helped change the culture to get it back to what we expect. They went through a lot. I’m proud of them.”
With the season now complete, Dawson will begin evaluating the squad for next year. “I’ll meet individually with every kid and evaluate where we are going,” he said. “We’ll set off-season goals.”
The Scrappers will begin their off-season program after Christmas. “We’ll have a couple of weeks of downtime and get the meetings over,” Dawson said.
Nashville will have some holes to fill for next season. “We’re losing 9 seniors on offense and 7 on defense,” according to Dawson.
For the season as a whole, “It’s bittersweet. The kids played really good at times. They really came together and did what we set out to do – have an opportunity to win. We had the opportunity. Overall, I’m very proud of their commitment, their work ethic and their attention to detail. These are very good kids,” Dawson said.
The sophomores coming up from this season’s junior high team posted undefeated records in the eighth and ninth grades. “They’ve won a lot of games,” Dawson said. As they cross the creek from NJHS, “The transition from junior high to high school is always a shock. Some of them need to be able to help us. We’ll start with them after Christmas and get the shock started early.”