Reunion matches to launch the 2022 football season.

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Brey Cook’s 2022 Blackhawks will have something of a reunion when they open the campaign against three teams from their former 4A-1 conference.

The Hawks left 4A-1 after the 2019 season when the Arkansas Activities Association moved Pea Ridge to the 5A ranking.

For a number of years in the old 4A-1, the top four teams for multiple years were Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove, Farmington, and Shiloh. Today, these four teams reside in 5A West.

The exit of the four paved the way for other teams to attempt to lead the reconfigured District 4A. Gentry and Huntsville are in the mix to assert their claims to the playoff seeds, along with Elkins and new member Ozark. Gravette has a great junior class that could put them in contention.

The Hawks will open the season by hosting Gravette on August 26. The teams haven’t played since the Hawks beat their cross-county rivals 42-0 in 2019.

Pea Ridge hasn’t lost to the Lions since 2015. The Lions were a solid team at the start of this millennium, winning 74 games from 2000 to 2011. However, Gravette has only won 42 games since 2011, winning only one game in 2021. They have 10 playoff wins since 2000, while Gentry and Huntsville have yet to record a playoff victory in the same span.

The Hawks will have a week off after the Gravette game, hitting the road for back-to-back games, visiting Huntsville on Sept. 9 and then invading Gentry on Sept. 16.

Huntsville spent several years in 5A until 2019 when they traded leagues with the Hawks. Huntsville went nearly winless in the biggest school conference. They won four games in 2021 and qualified for the 4A playoffs despite being knocked out in the first round. They are coached by Matt Williams who is 10-22 at school. The last time the Hawks played in Huntsville, Pea Ridge won 21-7 in 2009.

Rounding out the three-game non-conference schedule is a game with the Gentry Pioneers.

The Pioneers had their best season in 20 years, winning seven games in 2021, losing four. They’ve averaged 2-3 wins a year since 2000, but have seen an upswing in the past two years. The Hawks last played them in 2019, earning a 43-7 win. The last time the Pioneers went out on top of Pea Ridge was in 2013.

The Hawks open league play new league member Prairie Grove, last year’s 4A1 runner-up. The Hawks played them in 2021, losing to the Tigers at home.

The Hawks choose a new opponent with the Dardanelle Sand Lizards joining 5A West. They entered the league this year with Prairie Grove and Shiloh. The three replaced Greenbrier, Vilonia and Morrilton.

Many question marks hang around 5A West with the exit of three of the league’s top four teams. Perennial contender Harrison will likely be the consensus preseason pick to win the district, or maybe Shiloh will get that accolade.

With all the resources and transfer students Shiloh can provide, the Springdale School will always be a contender.

There was a bit of news from West County. Decatur has apparently decided to end its experience with eight-a-side football, joining the local 2A-1 regular league. The Bulldogs only played six games last year between eight members. They have 10 on their schedule now.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing the Hawks roster and talking about what might be in store for ’22.

Less than six weeks before the first kick-off!

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Editor’s Note: John McGee, award-winning columnist, sportswriter and Pea Ridge Elementary Schools Art teacher, writes a regular sports column for The TIMES. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted via The TIMES at [email protected]

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