Saturday, October 7, 2017
PRAIRIE GROVE -- It was only fitting that a game played between Prairie Grove (6-0) and Shiloh Christian (4-2), two of Class 4A-1's top teams, was decided in the final minutes of the game.
Prairie Grove defensive lineman Demarkus Cooper, who made the biggest play of the night in a game filled with them, picked off a Shiloh Christian pass and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown with a little more than a minute left in the game to secure a 35-21 win over the Saints on Friday night.
Prairie Grove 35, Shiloh Christian 21
Prair – Elder 5 run (Beason kick), 2:18
Shiloh – Russ 5 pass from Brown (Carter kick), 1:56
Prair – Cooper 25 pass from Elder (Kick failed), 5:56
Prair – S. Bryant 30 pass from Elder (Beason kick), 3:59
Shiloh – Tollett 66 pass from Brown (Carter kick), 3:06
Shiloh – Russ 5 run (Carter kick), 4:07
Prair – S. Bryant 55 pass from Elder (Johnson run), 8:05
Prair – Cooper 47 interception return (Beason kick), 1:15
"We've been studying that play all throughout. I saw No. 4 (Jake) Nelson, he's a good receiver, but I saw him switch, and that just told me what he was doing," Cooper said. "I could tell what he was doing from the beginning because the quarterback was looking right at him. I decided to step back a little bit from the defensive line and play some coverage for once."
On the play that Prairie Grove coach Danny Abshier called the turning point of the game, Saints quarterback Landon Brown tried to dump off a pass to Nelson, who was cutting across the middle of the field, but Cooper read the senior's eyes and came off the line of scrimmage to make the play before sprinting down the sideline for the score.
"He's obviously has a little bit more speed than I've been seeing in 40-yard dashes because he sure was scooting to the end zone," Abshier said. "Not many people had much gas so he was running on fumes."
Abshier knew the Tigers (6-0, 3-0 4A-1), winners of 25 straight regular season games, would remain undefeated as soon as the ball touched Cooper's hands, he said.
"We got it, we're on top," Abshier said. "That's what went through my head. I was like, 'Yessirree, that'll do it.'"
Cooper's interception marked the third of the game for a Tigers defense that disrupted a potent Saints offense and held them to 21 points. Shiloh Christian (4-2, 2-1) came into the night averaging 42 points per game.
"They're a good defense and we knew they were going to be," Shiloh Christian coach Jeff Conaway said. "There were some things that I wish we did a better job to execute. I felt we had some excellent opportunities that we didn't necessarily capitalize on, and it came back to bite us."
The Tigers' defense forced the Saints to turn it over on downs five times in the first half, including defensive back Colin Bryant's interception to end the second quarter that stalled a promising Shiloh Christian drive led by Brown.
Prairie Grove receiver Stone Bryant made big plays on both sides of the ball. He hauled in a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback J.D. Elder to give the Tigers the lead back with just over eight minutes left in the game and then halted a Shiloh Christian drive three possessions later by picking off Brown at the Prairie Grove 5-yard line.
"It was a war the whole night and it was an excellent job by our guys," Abshier said.
Sports on 10/07/2017
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