Wood pleased with Allen, offense’s efficiency
Junior quarterback Grant Allen played his way toward the top of the Har-Ber record books Friday in the Wildcats’ opener at Fort Smith Southside.
‘Efficient’ was the first word that came to mind for coach Chris Wood when recalling Allen’s 370-yard, six-touchdown effort. Allen threw for the fifth-most passing yards in the school’s 12-year history and his six passing scores tied for second-most in a single game.
“He did a really good job. I thought the guys caught the ball real well,” Wood said. “We had two drops all night. He did a nice job of distributing it and taking what the defense gave him.
“We had a number of guys that had good yards after catch for him. It was a combination of (quarterback and receiver) working well together.”
In all, seven players caught at least one pass, including defensive lineman Alejandro Ramirez’s touchdown that put Har-Ber up 34-6 in the second quarter. Brock Pounders led the way with six grabs for a career-best 179 yards and a score.
Explosive plays played a big role in the win, as Wood alluded to chunk yards after catch. Nine plays went for 20+ yards, five went 30+ and two went for 50 yards or more. Friday was exhibit A of why teams compete in 7-on-7 during the summer months, he said.
Har-Ber was also penalized an uncharacteristic amount in Week 1, which Wood and his staff are working to clean up. But several downfield penalties were the result of effort, he said. Despite that, though, the Wildcats finished the game with a scoring opportunity on all but one drive in the win.
“Overall I was pleased offensively. When you go back and watch film you notice a lot of little things you need to get better at from an efficiency standpoint,” Wood added. “I thought we were productive. The downfield penalties hurt a few drives. We had the blocks in the back that were legitimate.
“I love the effort from our guys, we’ve just got to be smart and be efficient on that. First week out, I thought they did a nice job, we’ve just got to be better at what we’re doing.”
Har-Ber is preparing for its first road trip of the season Friday to Jefferson City (Mo.), better than a four-hour drive from the Wildcats’ fieldhouse. The team will depart from campus around 10:30 a.m., stop in Osage Beach, Mo., to eat before a 7 p.m. kickoff.
In the teams’ first meeting last year, Har-Ber rushed for a school-record 557 yards (9.9 ypc) in a 54-14 rout. Har-Ber doesn’t appear to be the one-armed team it was at times last year, and Wood sees balance as a big key Friday. As for Jefferson City?
“They’re still explosive, but they run the ball more,” Wood said. “They’re breaking in a new quarterback, and they pound the run and they’re really dynamic. … I think if you could define them right now they’re a run team. They’re really working on balance.”
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Nichols dominates Conway, wins Player of the Week
Most defensive coaches have their own personal production scale to grade player performance on a weekly basis.
When Springdale wins on Fridays, coach Zak Clark typically sees 2-4 players grade out in the 20s with a 30 thrown in every so often. Arkansas commit Isaiah Nichols’ grade last week vs. Conway: 81, the highest grade Clark and defensive coordinator Brett Hobbs have witnessed as coaches.
“The defensive line did play well, but Isaiah was dominant,” Clark said. “I’ve never seen a game where a defensive lineman dominated the way he did the other night. You wipe that 81 off the board, and the score is a whole lot different.”
Nichols – who played 12 snaps on offense and all but one on defense vs. Conway – peaked last year in the upper 40s on Hobbs’ production chart. The previous high for Hobbs was a 52 while at Charleston. Nichols’ performance (10 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 sack vs. Conway) was above and beyond the coaches’ imagination, and led to the defensive tackle earning Player of the Week honors from the NWA Touchdown Club Wednesday.
Clark hasn’t shied away from giving Nichols his deserved praise this offseason, but felt this week that his words still haven’t done Nichols justice.
“I told the team this, there has been even around here some really, really good defensive linemen. What makes Isaiah different is his motor,” Clark said. “He plays hard every single play. In practice I have to hold him back. He does it every single day.
“I didn’t give him enough credit because he gets better seemingly every week and every time he goes out there. I didn’t give him enough credit for his practice habits and how he goes hard every single play.”
Nichols and the defensive line’s efforts last week resulted in a hard-fought 19-17 win against the six-legged cats in Clark’s first home opener at Springdale.
Clark said he has been inundated with comments from fans, parents and even his own players regarding the atmosphere and support shown at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium in Week 1. All in all, it was the perfect way to kick off a six-game home schedule – with the program’s first win in a home opener since 2012.
“What I do appreciate is our fans,” he said. “I know our players fed off of it, and it was a big atmosphere for us. The band is outstanding, and the weather was perfect. But the fans really showed up and they were loud, and it was an exciting game. I know the guys appreciated it.”
On the offensive side of the ball, running back Garrett Vaughan rushed for a career-high 98 yards and a touchdown while Kamond Robinson added the second 100-yard receiving game of his career. Jaden Cornelius also caught a touchdown pass and set the tone early, Clark said.
Springdale’s offense was up and down in the win, but when it got ahead of schedule things began to click. And one stat was really telling for the coaching staff.
“Our goal is six yards on first down,” Clark added. “We want to hit that 50 percent. We were 10-of-23, but on our three scoring drives we were 7-of-11, and two of those were like procedure penalties. When we were in front of the sticks we moved the ball really well.”
This week, Springdale welcomes in Alma, one of the early favorites in class 5A. The teams have met each of the last two seasons with each side taking one game. And when you hear the name Alma, everyone knows what to expect.
“They’re the same team every year where they’re going to be well-coached, and they get a lot out of their kids. They play extremely hard,” Clark said. “They’ve got the two playmakers on offense, and defensively they like their front seven, they’ll play three- and four-down and the linebackers are really good. (Tyler) Alexander is a really good football player. He could play linebacker for anybody.”
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
The Bulldogs’ early season gauntlet continues as they host Bryant on Friday night. The Hornets are No. 2 in the latest AP and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette rankings while Fayetteville comes in at No. 3.
Bryant, the favorite to win the 7A-Central, defeated Benton 49-42 in the Salt Bowl on Saturday. An estimated crowd of more than 30,000 attended the annual rivalry game at War Memorial Stadium.
“They’re a really good football team, really well coached,” said Fayetteville coach Billy Dawson. “I’ve known (coach) Buck (James) a long time and they’re coming off a big win in their Salt Bowl, so they’ll come in here ready to play.”
Dawson estimated that the Hornets offense passed the ball 70 percent of the time and said the vertical threat is different than what his Bulldogs faced during a 22-17 win at Blue Springs, a team that entered the game ranked No. 1 in Missouri’s highest classification.
Fayetteville’s defense stopped Blue Springs behind the line of scrimmage on 14 of 36 running plays. Defensive tackle Keondre Conley had four tackles for loss and a team-high 13 tackles, including 12 solos. Defensive backs Brayden Butler and Will Litzinger both finished in double digits in total tackles and each had four tackles for loss as well.
“Bryant has a really good player at quarterback and the offensive line is huge and does a really good job up front,” Dawson said. “We played really well up front last week but our linebackers have got to play better consistently. They played well at times and they will play better, but this is a different test. We’ll be tested up front but also in the back-end because Bryant will try to get the ball in space and Blue Springs didn’t really try to do that as much.”
Counting a preseason scrimmage at Class 6A favorite Greenwood, it’s the third stiff opponent in a row for the Bulldogs. They have played the strongest schedule in the state thus far, according to Maxpreps.com.
“It’s a really good schedule,” Dawson said. “Three quality opponents that play quality opponents and it’s kind of what we were expecting.”
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
Mounties coach Mike Loyd couldn’t stop talking about the way his young football team kept its composure to rally from a two-score deficit on the road in the final four minutes to defeat Siloam Springs.
“I was proud of their effort because they could have folded up their tent down 28-7,” Loyd said. “Then when you’re 13 down with three sophomore offensive linemen, a sophomore quarterback. They put together an 80-something yard drive.
“People leaving the stands, but the key was our kids didn’t quit and neither did our coaches. I don’t care who you’re playing. Several kids, Timmy Howard made a great defensive play at the end.”
Loyd said his team, which started nine sophomores, struggled with nerves early.
“It’s just kinda figuring things out,” Loyd said. “It takes you a couple drives to do that and settle the nerves. You’ve got to figure out what you can do week one or week two.”
Sophomore quarterback Hunter Loyd completed 18 of 28 passes for 312 yards. A huge part of that going to senior Colin McWhorter. He finished with 12 catches for 225 yards and a touchdown. But the Mounties struggled to run the ball, finishing with just 59 rushing yards on 25 carries as a team. Loyd accounted for 42 of those.
Senior Andrew McGlynn, who has been working mainly as a receiver, stepped to the other side of the ball and played well at safety in the opener, Loyd said.
“We’re still trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle,” Loyd said.
Rogers will play host to Claremore, Okla., on Friday. The Zebras won their opener 48-0 over East Central.
The War Eagles struggled to keep up with Little Rock Central’s speed in a season-opening loss, particularly on defense, Rogers Heritage coach Tony Travis said.
“They played a lot of man to man defense against us and kept people in the box and brought a lot of pressure,” Travis said. “And we didn’t handle their speed very well at all.”
“We had moments of decent play on offense, just not nearly enough of them.”
Senior running back Dyland Qualls rushed for 117 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown, but he was the lone bright spot running the ball. The rest of the War Eagles combined for minus-8 yards on 21 carries.
Heritage was hurt by a few injuries against Central, but all are expected to be ready for their home opener against Russellville, Travis said.
Senior Zach Gall, a two-way player, sat out the entire second half after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit. Ty Graser also tweaked his ankle, which limited his snaps on offense and quarterback Trey Kitterman was out for a while after taking a shot to the throat, but returned.
“Ty played well at safety, but we were hoping to get him a few more carries,” Travis said. “And Dylan played well at linebacker, too.”
Heritage plays host to Russellville on Friday. The defending Class 6A state champions are another team that will bring defensive pressure, Travis said.
“They hit the field with some confidence and they play fast,” Travis said.
—Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Bentonville coach Jody Grant said he didn’t think the Tigers’ performance against Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst was as bad as the final score indicated after he reviewed Friday’s season opener.
A loss, however, is still a loss, and Grant said things had to be done as Bentonville (0-1) prepares for Friday’s game at Bixby, Okla.
“When you turn the ball over three times against a team that didn’t turn the ball over at all, it’s a statistical issue,” Grant said. “If you look at the stats across the board between the two teams, it wasn’t too far off.
“I look at the film and we basically had 18 new starters, and that showed a little bit. Our returning starters, for the most part, played pretty well, but our effort overall wasn’t good enough to win a football game. We have to get better if we are going to be a team that is going to contend for a title at the end of the season.”
While Bixby, a three-time Oklahoma 6A-II state champion, will present enough challenges, Bentonville’s main focus will be on itself and how to improve.
The Tigers will be helped by having games under their belts, but for now, Grant has personally challenged every player on the team on how to improve themselves in order to make the team better in certain areas.
“We’ve made some tweaks in the lineup in hopes of getting more speed on the field and see how things shake up,” Grant said. “We’ve played only a game and a half, but we’re giving up too many points, and that’s very uncharacteristic of a Bentonville defense.
“We’re also trying to find ways to get the ball in certain players’ hands. You know that Kam’Ron Mays-Hunt is going to get a lot of attention, and we have to find ways of getting other people in the action.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
One set of Tigers down, but another group of Tigers awaits the Wolverines this week.
West opened the season on an impressive note with a 49-13 romp of Pryor, Okla., but now its attention turns to a Little Rock Central team that knocked off Rogers Heritage.
“It’s a different animal,” West coach Bryan Pratt said. “They have a lot more athletes running around. We’ll have to do a real good job of tackling and being able to pass protect.
“I remember they blitzed a bunch last year, and Will (Jarrett) didn’t play the next game because he was a little beaten up. We hope to protect him a litle better and play better than what he did last year.”
West compiled 460 yards of total offense against Pryor, but there were still mistakes that could have made the Wolverines’ win even more dominant. West fumbled twice, including one at the goal line when Jarrett tried to dive for a score, and the Wolverines were penalized 11 times for 75 yards.
It will be those things West needs to eliminate as the season continues.
“I think our focus needs to be on playing hard and taking care of the little mistakes we made in Week 1,” Pratt said. “After you play that first game, there are things you can improve on.
“I think we definitely need to clean up some penalties, and we need to take care of the ball better. Those turnovers are the things that will beat you, and we just need to clean our game up.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry