By Steve Andrews | Photos by 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 sharp-shooter, firing five touchdown passes, to lead the Patriots to a 41-21 cross-border victory over the host Tigers.
Prairie Grove (2-1) landed the first blow on the opening kickoff, as Conner Hubbs picked the ball up along the left sideline, reversed field around a wall of blockers and darted down the right sideline for an 87-yard touchdown return.
Metro (4-0) responded on 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 left in the first quarter.
“It was a pretty rough start with Prairie Grove taking the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, but defensively I couldn’t be more proud of the way we played,” Metro head coach Jared McCoy said. “Then, offensively, we were firing on cylinders tonight, too. Just a good all-around performance.”
After forcing a Tiger punt, the Patriots then orchestrated a 10-play drive that resulted in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Francis to Jaxson Grimes to go up 14-7.
A muffed punt snap by Prairie Grove set Metro up at the Tigers’ 15. It took one play for Tagg Campbell to take the handoff and dart up the middle for the score and a 21-7 lead with 10:59 to play in the half.
“I think our problem tonight was just them, Tulsa Metro,” Prairie Grove head coach Danny Abshier said. “I think we got a little false sense of security from running the opening kickoff back. And then we didn’t seem to be too encourage to dig in and go after it. Then we just started to have to play catch-up.”
The Tigers continued to struggle offensively when they fumbled the ball on the second play of the next drive, allowing Metro’s Eason Wagenblatt to pounce on it at the Prairie Grove 21. Four plays later, Francis connected with Will Bierman on a 15-yard pass to boost the lead to 20. The extra point was blocked, which seemed to fire up the Tiger sideline.
Prairie Grove, who generally thrives in the running game out of the Wing-T offense, was held to just 107 yards on 34 carries. It was the first time this season that they passed for more yards than they ran, with 136 through the air.
“Prairie Grove is just fantastic with the run