TEXARKANA -- There were some ups and downs, but was a great week for the most part for sports in the Texarkana region.
Liberty-Eylau's football program posted its first win of the young season -- a 36-14 triumph on the road over historic rival Atlanta at Rabbit Stadium.
No. 3 Pleasant Grove and No. 6 Texas High, which jumped up two spots in the latest rankings, both won as well, maintaining their unbeaten records going into another week. And, speaking of the unbeatens, Arkansas High's tennis team continues its tear through their 2023 schedule.
The Hawks had a Saturday game last week, and quarterback Ahkhari Johnson, despite an early 20-7 deficit, led the team to a 19-point win over Midland Christian, 45-26.
His heroics earned him Texarkana Gazette's Athlete of the Week honors. More on that below.
Here are some other local happenings in the Texarkana region this week that you may have missed in our editions:
Out-hit and out-played in the early going, Pleasant Grove dug out of a 20-7 hole and rallied to a 45-26 win over Midland Christian Academy Saturday in Children's Health Stadium in Prosper.
It all ended well. The No. 3 Hawks improved to 3-0 but not until MCA (0-2), a private school half PG's size, delivered a lesson on the importance of focus, precision, effort and avoiding over-confidence.
"We had a good game plan," said Mustang quarterback Colten Newsom, who ran for 122 yards and passed for 142 more to lead an offense that controlled the ball for an eternity. Midland Christian committed no turnovers and punted but three times.
Pleasant Grove's varsity tennis team once again hit the road on Saturday to play against a higher classification team.
This time, however, the Hawks were defeated by Class 5A program McKinney North, 12-7.
"Although we didn't win overall, we had some of the most exciting tennis matches I've seen all season," Pleasant Grove coach Erik Pickett said. "We knew we were going to have our hands full against a tough 5A team, and seeing our Hawks playing hard and not give up is all I can ask of them.
The Pleasant Grove and Texas High cross country programs competed at the second annual TAMU-T meet on Saturday.
Texas High's varsity boys took first place in the 1-5A division, while the varsity girls also claimed the top spot. Pleasant Grove's varsity boys team, which placed first in the 1-4A classification, finished second overall behind Texas High.
Two local players recently committed to their new college coach this past week to play college baseball next year.
Texas High senior Tanner Ross and New Boston senior Connor Bobbitt both committed to Coach Cody Hooten and the Henderson State Reddie baseball program.
"We are excited to bring Connor and Tanner into the Reddie family. Both young men play the game the right way, and take care of their business in the classroom. This is a great start to the 2024 Reddie recruiting class."
Arkansas High's varsity boys tennis program improved to 8-0 on the season after completing the season sweep of Lake Hamilton, 4-0, on Monday on the tennis courts at Arkansas High.
The doubles pairing of Bryce Jones and Garrett Pendergraft continued their unbeaten streak with a 6-1, 6-1 victory, while fellow doubles team of Wade Tullos and Corbin Atchley secured a 6-4, 6-4 win against Lake Hamilton's top team.
In boys singles, Andrew Tye and Ryan Wardlaw emerged victorious. Tye triumphed with a scoreline of 6-3, 6-3, while Wardlaw dominated with an 8-1 performance.
Pleasant Grove quarterback Ahkhari Johnson wasn't going to let an early deficit on Saturday afternoon hinder his better judgement.
Down 20-7, Johnson kept doing what he has done his entire high school career at Pleasant Grove: Find a way to win.
After all said and done, the University of Arkansas commit finished with 312 total yards and four touchdowns during the Hawks' 45-26 come-from-behind victory over Midland Christian in Prosper, Texas, to earn the Texarkana Gazette's choice for Athlete of the Week. He had 167 yards passing and two scores on 9-of-12 passing and rushed 14 times for 145 yards and two more touchdowns.
Liberty-Eylau continued to go through some progression pains as it fell to Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill, 25-14, 25-15, 25-12, at the Rader Dome in a varsity volleyball match on Tuesday.
"We tried a different rotation and I feel like it went pretty well," Lady Leopards' head coach Maya Polley said. "We have to work through some internal problems that we are having right now. We have to get our confidence back up because we have had a lot of losses so far this season. Once we get the confidence up, we will do better than what we have done so far."
Liberty-Eylau got on an early roll in the third set, taking a 5-1 lead with Kimora Norman serving. During the five-point spurt, Ja'Kai Ray had a tip, a block and a kill down the right baseline for a winner.
Texas High's volleyball team suffered its first district loss Tuesday night in Longview.
The Lady Lobos took the first set 25-20, and the second set, 27-25. Texas High rebounded to win set three, 26-24. In the fourth set, Longview secured the match with a 25-22 victory.
Texas High (23-6, 1-1) had outstanding individual performances in the loss. Outside hitter Mally Lumpkin had 26 kills and 26 digs for the evening. Setter Cy Hopkins added another 17 kills along with 27 assists, and sophomore Sydney Woods had 23 points in the defeat.
Pleasant Grove's Ellis Miller had a team-high 13 points and nine kills to help lead the Lady Hawks to a 25-17, 25-18, 25-19 victory against New Boston on Tuesday night.
With the win, the Lady Hawks move to 23-5 on the season.
Julianne Naples added 12 points and 23 set assists, while teammates Lauren Stewart and Madison Carpenter combined for 21 kills in the win.
Arkansas High's tennis teams hit the road Tuesday and took down Hot Springs and White Hall to tack on two more conference victories.
Arkansas High (10-0) remains unbeaten on the season, after sweeping Hot Springs, 7-0, and White Hall, 4-0.
The Lady Backs won their first match and lost their second, defeating Hot Springs by a 2-1 score before falling to White Hall.
Texas High's varsity tennis hosted district rival Whitehouse and pulled out a 10-1 victory on Tuesday night.
"The team really stepped up," Texas High coach Toby Watson said. "A great follow-up to the Lindale victory on Saturday."
Arkansas High's volleyball program traveled east and came back home with its first Conference 5A South victory after sweeping El Dorado, 25-16, 25-23, 25-16, on Tuesday night.
After clinching the first set, the Lady Backs took advantage of several El Dorado errors down the stretch.
Pleasant Grove's varsity tennis team defeated Liberty-Eylau, 13-0, in its first district game of the season on Tuesday.
"This was our first round of district play and our Hawks took care of business today," Pleasant Grove coach Erik Pickett said.
Nothing was going to stop Texas High last week against Benton (Louisiana).
Not even Mother Nature.
Texas High (3-0), which enters Week 4 ranked No. 6 in the Class 5A, Division II rankings, jumped two spots in this week's poll after previously being ranked eighth.
To do so, the Tigers had to survive two lightning delays, while holding onto a dominating 62-14 triumph over the Louisiana team that seemed to please the Dave Campbell and TexasFootball.com voters -- along with both No. 5 Lucas Lovejoy and No. 2 Dallas South Oak Cliff losing ahead of them and falling completely out of the rankings.
Prescott has been in and out of the top spot of the Arkansas Sports Media High School Football Poll in Class 3A since the beginning of the season.
Now, the Curley Wolves have sole possession of the No. 1 ranking and appear to control their own destiny in holding it going forward after second-ranked Booneville lost to Class 5A Camden Fairview, 30-22, on Friday.
Prescott (2-1) shut out Fordyce, 17-0, after narrowly losing by four points to a Class 6A Oklahoma team the week prior in McAlester and earned 20 first-place votes for Class 3A's top spot.
Liberty-Eylau's volleyball captains are Ja'Kai Ray and Kaci Otwell, as chosen by head coach Maya Polley. Ray is an outside hitter and Otwell is the setter.
Otwell enjoys the times when the team has a burst of energy.
"When we get a kill, we get all hyped up," Otwell said. "We just try to carry that big energy on to the next play."
The Lady Leopards' setter is in her third year of being a captain as she was chosen in her freshman and junior years of volleyball.
Ja'Kai Ray's primary position on the court was changed by head coach Maya Polley as she made the transition from middle blocker to outside hitter.
"Ja'Kai's position changed because I needed a really strong hitter," Polley said. "She plays all six rotations and I depend on her for most of my balls. Ja'Kai is the most dependable person. She has a strong volleyball IQ, so she can pass the ball. She handles the ball really well and has good control."
Ray is the leader that the Lady Leopards look to in times of must win volleys. She also has poured a lot of hard work into her solid, powerful jump serve.
"She puts the ball down in clutch times," Polley said. "We have been critiquing her jump serve and she has picked up on that pretty fast."
Liberty-Eylau hit its mark in all phases of the game and, behind Greg London's 171 yards of rushing, earned its first win of the season with a 36-14 victory over Atlanta in a rivalry varsity football game Friday at Rabbit Stadium.
The Leopards scored 28 unanswered points, which began when London found the end zone from five yards out with 7:39 to go in the third to knot the game at 14-all.
Firing on all cylinders, No. 3 Pleasant Grove cruised to a 63-21 win over a tenacious but outgunned Frisco Memorial on Friday night at Hawk Stadium.
On a night when everybody got into the act, PG scored on its first eight possessions while senior quarterback Ahkhari Johnson took it easy. Four different receivers caught five touchdown passes and three running backs ran for four more scores.
"The O-line had a great game," said Johnson, whose one incompletion was a dropped ball. "I just sat back and went through my progressions. We're clicking."
After looking so impressive offensively for the first three weeks of the season, an injury to starting quarterback David J. Potter derailed Texas High's offense Friday night in Tyler.
The Tigers struggled to get past winless Tyler Legacy Red Raiders, 17-14.
Potter's hamstring injury early in the first quarter against Legacy forced sophomore Kameron Wrightner into action at quarterback.