Bentonville’s defense had a reason to be tired Friday night.
North Little Rock’s offense wound up with 82 plays and kept the ball for more than 34 minutes in its Class 7A state playoff quarterfinal game at Tiger Stadium, but the Tigers’ defense found its second wind at the right moment.
Bentonville didn’t give up another yard after North Little Rock had a first-and-10 at the Tigers 13, and that allowed the Tigers to hang on for a 28-21 victory.
“Our defense stepped up at the end,” Bentonville coach Jody Grant said. “We talked to them on that fourth down and told them if we can get a stop there and a first down offensively, the game was ours.
“It wasn’t easy. That’s a very good football team over there, and they do some stuff offensively that gave us fits defensively.”
Tim Fernandez and David Nichols played the biggest roles in Bentonville’s defensive stand. Fernandez, a senior defensive end, cut through the line and dropped Alex Day for no gain on a sweep going the opposite direction on first down.
Nichols then dropped Day, who finished with 32 carries for 169 yards, for a yard loss on second down and caused an incomplete pass when he hit tight end Tyrell Robinson and popped the ball loose on third down. Fernandez then finished the stand when he sacked quarterback Corvasea Cooney for a 5-yard loss on fourth down with just under 2 minutes remaining.
Play of the game: It would have been interesting if North Little Rock had scored and had to make the decision of playing for the tie or for the win. Fernandez, however, didn’t give the Charging Wildcats a chance to find out with his sack of Cooney.
Player of the game: Logan Darby returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, caught a 57-yard touchdown pass from Kasey Ford in the first quarter and also made some stops from his strong safety position.
Notable: Bentonville has now won five of its six meetings against North Little Rock. … The Charging Wildcats flirted with disaster with five fumbles, but didn’t lose one. … North Little Rock enjoyed a 21-9 advantage in first downs and a 352-198 advantage in total offense. … The Charging Wildcats had eight fourth-down plays and converted only two, with a pass being deflected and intercepted by Tyrone Mahone.
Up Next: It’s been a familiar sight for five of the past six years — Bentonville vs. Fayetteville in a playoff game. The only difference is this meeting comes in a semifinal game, and it will take place at Tiger Stadium.
Bentonville Tigers 28
North Little Rock Charging Wildcats 21
|NLR Charging Wildcats||7||0||7||7||21|
Bent — Darby 85 kickoff return (Moehring kick), 11:47.
North — Austin 2 run (Melton kick), 4:47.
Bent — Darby 57 pass from Ford (Moehring kick), 4:21.
Bent — Ford 1 run (Moehring kick), 10:30.
Bent — Barganier 2 pass from Ford (Moehring kick), 8:55.
North — Cooney 1 run (Melton kick), 4:17.
North — Austin 1 run (Melton kick), 10:42
|NLR Charging Wildcats||Bentonville Tigers|
RUSHING —North Little Rock: Day 32-169, Austin 16-70, Cooney 11-32, Lawson 4-19, TEAM 1-(minus 14). Bentonville: Clark 13-73, Bowman 1-13, Mahone 1-8, Nichols 1-3, Mays-Hunt 1-(minus 2), TEAM 3-(minus 6), Ford 4-(minus 13).
PASSING — North Little Rock: Cooney 6-18-1-76. Bentonville: Ford 6-12-0-122; Hunter 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — North Little Rock: Lewis 2-27, Ruth 2-24, Day 1-18, Robinson 1-7. Bentonville: Darby 2-99, Clark 1-8, Johnson 1-7, Mays-Hunt 1-6, Barganier 1-2.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.