Class 5A Week 14 Rankings, Notes & Picks

Class 5A Week 14 Rankings, Notes & Picks

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Class 5A, Week 14, 2018
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1. Pulaski Academy (12-1)
2. LR Christian (12-1)
3. Harrison (12-1)
4. Morrilton (8-5)
5. Texarkana (10-2)
6. LR McClellan (10-2)
7. Blytheville (7-5)
8. Wynne (7-5)
9. LR Parkview (5-6)
10. Greenbrier (7-4)
11. Camden Fairview (6-5)
12. HS Lakeside (5-6)
13. Valley View (7-4)
14. Alma (5-6)
15. Nettleton (8-3)
16. White Hall (5-5)
17. Batesville (4-6)
18. Magnolia (6-4)
19. Forrest City (4-6)
20. Beebe (4-6)
21. Watson Chapel (3-6-1)
22. Vilonia (3-6)
23. Farmington (4-6)
24. Maumelle (4-6)
25. Paragould (1-9)
26. Greene County Tech (3-7)
27. Clarksville (2-8)
28. Huntsville (2-8)
29. Hot Springs (1-9)
30. De Queen (1-9)
31. Hope (1-9)
32. LR Fair (1-9)

No. 2 LR Christian vs. No. 1 Pulaski Academy
The Class 5A title game matches a pair of conference foes for the fifth time in the past 16 years. Pulaski Academy beat Little Rock Christian nine of the 10 times they've played, including 86-56 in 2017 and 56-14 Week 5 this year. Pulaski Academy has been the No. 1 ranked Class 5A team by all year, while Little Rock Christian hasn't budged from the No. 2 ranking since Week 2.
Pulaski Academy goes for an unprecedented fifth straight state title in the modern playoff era. Barton won four straight from 1986-1989) and nine schools have won three straight. The Bruins have 19 straight playoff triumphs, beating Alma, Little Rock McClellan and Harrison this postseason by an average of 63-28. The Bruin's onside kick philosophy helped them get past 5A West champion Harrison 75-54 last week. They trailed 35-26 late in the second quarter, but scored three touchdowns in a two-minute span by recovering consecutive onside kicks to build a 46-35 intermission advantage. “We wait on that one little spurt,” Coach Kevin Kelley says. “Once we hit it, things usually go our way.”
Junior quarterback Braden Bratcher completed 36 of 47 passes for 570 yards and seven TDs and ran 15 times for 112 yards and a pair of TDs against Harrison. Bratcher completes 69 percent of his passes this year (286 of 416) for 4,316 yards and 52 TDs with just seven interceptions, and he's rushed for 593 yards and eight TDs. Junior Jayden Kelley averages 10.6 yards per carry (118 attempts, 1,252 yards), running for 15 TDs and catching 26 passes for 378 yards. Seniors John David White and Hudson Henry drive the fast-paced Bruins. White has 77 catches for 1,532 yards and 26 TDs, while Henry has 86 catches for 1,207 yards and 14 TDs.
Pulaski Academy's overshadowed defense gives up 21 points weekly, holding six opponents to two TDs or less. Sophomore linebacker Futa Shinkawa paces PA with 123 tackles, while junior linebacker Chris Connell has 121. Shinkawa has recorded double digit tackles seven of the past eight games, including a season-best 18 against LR Parkview and 12 against Harrison. Senior team leader Blake Titus has 97 tackles in 2018, including 10 stops each of the past two weeks. Junior cornerback Trent Sawyer has a team-best four interceptions, including a pair against Alma in the first round of the playoffs. White played defense in last year's title game against LR McClellan, intercepting two passes and forcing a fumble in the final minute.
LR Christian returns to the finals for the first time since 2007 (they mercy-ruled Greenwood in the regular season before losing 27-6 in the title game). The Warriors have been on the road the past two weeks, beating Texarkana 48-24 and Morrilton 61-42. They trailed Texarkana 17-14 at halftime in the quarterfinals, and led Morrilton 42-14 at intermission. “A fast start is key against Pulaski Academy,” Coach Eric Cohu says. “You can't turn it over and you have to recover onside kicks.”
Standout senior QB Justice Hill has completed 196 of 276 passes this year (71 percent) for 2,866 yards and 35 TDs, and has 54 carries for 796 yards and 10 TDs, while playing in 11 games (missed two games with a hamstring injury, including Pulaski Academy). “Having Hill healthy should make a difference,” Cohu says. “Without him the first time around, our offense was anemic. We put too much pressure on our defense and eventually wore down.” The Warriors gained just 90 yards in the second half Week 5. Junior running back Kendel Givens has 181 carries for 1,507 yards and 17 TDs this year. Senior M.J. Loggins paces the receivers with 54 catches for 796 yards and 10 TDs, while junior Chris Hightower has almost 900 yards, despite being slowed with a hamstring the past month. Hightower played some against Morrilton “and is getting better every day,” the coach says.
LR Christian senior linebacker Grant McElmurry strained his Achilles tendon four weeks ago but hasn't missed a game while wearing a protective walking boot through the week. Senior ends Drake Bradley and Jack Mabry are keys to pressuring PA's attack. Cohu hired Lance Clark from Alabama as defensive coordinator after last season, when the Warriors gave up a combined 142 points in losses to Pulaski Academy and Wynne. Clark's attack relies on stunts and pressuring offenses into mistakes. The Warriors have given up 14 points or less five times this season.

LAST WEEK correctly predicted both semifinal games. has correctly predicted 173 of 210 games (82 percent) this season. 

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION (favored team in CAPS followed by point spread)
LR Christian vs. PULASKI ACADEMY (12)

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