PEA RIDGE (KFSM) - A promising 2018 season stalled in the first round of the playoffs, as Pea Ridge fell 8-0 in overtime to Helena-West Helena. It's a game that most of the Blackhawks want to forget, but some are using as motivation heading into 2019.
"There’s certain expectations here in Pea Ridge that the community demands, that the school demands which in turn makes us demand it out of our kids," fourth year head coach Stephen Neal explained. "Here at Pea Ridge that’s not our normal ending of a season."
The Blackhawks made the 4A state title game in 2016 (lost to Warren) and the state semifinals the following year (lost to Arkadelphia). But nothing stung more than the first round loss to the Cougars last fall.
"The whole game was 0-0, it was kind of devastating as a loss at the end," senior Carlos Reyes reflected. "But yeah I guess we’ll use that as fuel for this year."
"We learned a lot of valuable lessons during the course of that game," said Neal.
"Oh it definitely does. We got a lot of haters out there. A lot of people think we’re gonna go out in the first round again," senior Brayden Ralph said. "We’re gonna prove everyone wrong though."
"I keep it in the back of my mind saying I need to do better," offensive lineman Phillip Brown added. "Cause last year there was stuff I know I could have improved upon during that game and I know I can push forward from that."
Pea Ridge returns 12 starters from last year including some depth on one side of the ball.
"I think our defense can really prove people wrong," Ralph said. "A lot of people are counting them out cause they’re young but I really think they can step it up this year."
Pea Ridge opens up the season with a two game homestand against 5A powers Harrison and Maumelle. The Blackhawks lost to both schools last year, starting 0-2 while surrendering 85 points the first two weeks.