Originally published October 6, 2018 at 07:00a.m., updated October 6, 2018 at 01:00a.m.
SPRINGDALE -- In the week leading up to Shiloh Christian's game against 4A-1 conference rival Prairie Grove, several key storylines were running through junior quarterback Eli Reece's mind.
For starters, the Saints had previously lost to the Tigers three years in a row. Next, a popular state high school football website predicted Shiloh to win by only a point. When the opening whistle blew, Reece and his Saints found motivation in both, and the gunslinger played his best career game in a 56-14 victory over the Tigers.
Shiloh Christian 56, Prairie Grove 14
Shiloh Christian 21 14 21 0 — 56
Prairie Grove 7 7 0 0 — 14
Shi — Thomson 54 pass from Reece (Williams kick), 11:07
Pra — Heltemes 1 run (Walker kick), 5:40
Shi — Tolllett 19 pass from Reece (Williams kick), 3:34
Shi — Russ 31 pass from Reece (Williams kick), :54
Shi — Russ 2 run (Williams kick), 8:16
Shi — Tollett 12 pass from Reece (Williams kick), 3:01
Pra — Heltemes 1 run (Walker kick), :20
Shi — Tollett 4 pass from Reece (Williams kick), 10:32
Shi — Henry 13 run (Williams kick), 8:15
Shi — Thomson 53 interception return (Williams kick), 2:19
"It was just another week for us, and we did the same (preparation) we do every week," Reece said. "It feels great. We all fought together, and we've been working all year for this."
After Reece gashed the Tigers' defense for four first-half passing touchdowns, Shiloh coach Jeff Conaway relied more heavily on sophomore quarterback Jaiden Henry in the second half. Typically, the two are used interchangeably, as the former's experience and arm are matched by the latter's big-play ability and dual-threat prowess.
While Henry took snaps in the first half, Conaway rode Reece's hot hand until the game was far out of hand.
"This is gotta be the best he's had, but the best is yet to come," Conaway said. "If you're a defensive coordinator preparing for those two guys, you're gonna have your work cut out for you because they're playing really solid right now."
Reece's 12-for-16, 177-yard stat line was aided by receivers Blake Thomson and Truitt Tollett, who combined to haul in seven of those 12 completions, not including the ones thrown by Henry. Thomson opened the Saints' scoring with a 54-yard strike, while Tollett hauled in three touchdown receptions before it was over.
"Me and Blake were definitely on tonight, and I don't think any of their corners could touch us," Tollett said. "Eli played a great game tonight. We were all on. It felt great."
After Shiloh scored a touchdown on its first five drives, the Saints' halftime lead was further secured when the Tigers fumbled the ball on three consecutive kick returns to open the third quarter. The recoveries fueled Shiloh's second-half momentum, and a blowout victory was all but inevitable.
"Our special teams did a great job of really putting pressure on that returner," Conaway said. "The pressure squeezed him a little bit, and we were lucky to come up with the fumbles."
The Tigers' two scores came in the first half via senior fullback Garret Heltemes. The team's run-oriented offense was at a disadvantage when Shiloh started to pull away, and the star back only ran the ball twice in the second half. He finished with nine carries for 49 yards.
Since losing its season-opening game to Arkansas High, Shiloh Christian has gone undefeated, dominating every in-state team its played against. As the Saints prepare to play Gentry in another 4A-1 matchup, Friday night's victory could be a big boost for a team that has conference title aspirations.
"It keeps us on the right track," Conaway said. "We've not reached our goals yet, but this is a step in the right direction. I'm very proud of our guys, our staff and our team. It's a step in the right direction, but we're not done yet."
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