By Steve Andrews | Pictures of Sadie Rucker
PRAIRIE GROVE, ARK. – Prairie Grove fired the first shot Friday night, but after that it was Tulsa Metro Christian quarterback Kirk Francis who proved to be the real sniper, firing five touchdowns, for lead the Patriots to a 41-21 cross-border victory over the host Tigers.
Prairie Grove (2-1) landed the opening shot on the opening kickoff, as Conner Hubbs scooped the ball up along the left sideline, flipped the pitch around a blocker wall and s dashed down the right sideline for an 87-yard touchdown return.
Metro (4-0) responded to the ensuing possession with a methodical 11-play drive, as senior quarterback Kirk Francis hit Breck Nauman for a 20-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 7- 7 with 8:44 to go in the first quarter.
“It was a pretty rough start with Prairie Grove kicking off for a touchdown, but defensively I couldn’t be more proud of the way we played,” the Metro head coach said. Jared McCoy. “Then offensively we also fired on cylinders tonight. Just a good overall performance.
After forcing a Tiger punt, the Patriots then orchestrated a 10-play drive that culminated in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Francis to Jaxson Grimes to go up 14-7.
A missed punt from Prairie Grove put Metro 15th for the Tigers. It took a game for Tagg Campbell to take over and rush down the middle for the score and a 21-7 lead with 10:59 left in the half. .
“I think our problem tonight was just them, Tulsa Metro,” Prairie Grove head coach Danny Abshier said. “I think we had a little false sense of security by delaying the kick-off. And then we didn’t seem too encouraged to dig in and pursue. Then we just started having to catch up.
The Tigers continued to struggle offensively when they fumbled the ball in the second game of the next practice, allowing Metro’s Eason Wagenblatt to pounce on it at Prairie Grove 21. Four plays later, Francis connected with Will Bierman on a 15-yard pass to make the lead 20. The extra point was blocked, which seemed to boost Tiger’s sideline.
Prairie Grove, which typically thrives in the running game off the Wing-T offense, was limited to just 107 yards on 34 carries. It was the first time this season that they passed for more yards than they rushed, with 136 through the air.
“Prairie Grove is just fantastic with running,” McCoy said. “They just tear people apart, and we hadn’t seen anything on tape but them slashing people. So obviously, you have to load the box, then stay solid in the secondary.
A Patriot fumble shortly before halftime was picked up by Prairie Grove’s David Stephens near midfield. Tigers quarterback Camden Patterson hit Joe Sims for a 27-yard completion, before Ethan Miller rushed in with a 19-yard run to cut the lead to 27-14 and breathe life into the Tigers before the intermission.
They foiled a subway drive deep before the final horn.
But the Patriots opened the second half with another successful trip downfield with seven consecutive passes, the last a 9-yard touchdown downfield from Francis to Reid Roth for a 34-14 advantage.
Francis, who is climbing rapidly in the scouting rankings, finished the game completing 28 of 39 passes for 334 yards, and his five touchdown passes were for five different receivers.
“I couldn’t be happier with Kirk,” McCoy said. “Of course, he’s been playing for a few years now, so he’s still doing what we’re doing. And he’s got a lot of good targets to shoot and he distributes the ball really well.
Metro appeared to put the game aside at the start of the fourth quarter, with 10 more plays, including nine assists, ending with another Francis strike against Seth McCoy from six yards out.
“They were ready for our running game, and that’s what we’re doing,” Abshier said. “And even with our maximum overshoot protection, we still don’t block like we should. Lots and lots of mistakes, but I think our biggest mistake was that we weren’t going full speed from the start.
After both teams put their reserves on late in the game, Prairie Grove backup quarterback Luke Vance engineered a 13-play drive, hitting Jace Edwards on a 10-yard touchdown pass in the final minute.
The Tigers must now prepare for conference play in 5A West as they travel to Pea Ridge next Friday.
“Right now the biggest enemy is us, and we have to stop that from happening,” Abshier said. “We didn’t do our homework and took on too much in this game.”
Metro Christian travels to Oklahoma City next Friday to take on Mount St. Mary.