Bentonville will close out the nonconference portion of its schedule by finally coming home.
The Tigers (1-1) will host Conway this week after making starting their season with road trips to Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst and Bixby, Okla. Even Bentonville’s scrimmage was away from Tiger Stadium this year.
“Our kids are excited about playing in front of our home crowd and playing on our home turf,” Bentonville coach Jody Grant said. “It will be nice to wear our black uniforms and play out here where we have had a lot of success.”
Conway (1-1), like Bentonville’s first two opponents, provides the Tigers with the type of competition they need before heading into 7A-West Conference play the following week. The Wampus Cats opened the season with a loss to Springdale but bounced back in a big way with a 49-18 victory over a Jonesboro team many expect to contend for the Class 6A state title.
Conway scored on all six of its first-half possessions and built a 42-6 halftime cushion. Quarterback Andrew Hreha threw for three touchdowns, two to Nick Richmond, and tailback Michael George ran for three more scores.
“They look like two different teams,” Grant said. “In Week One, it probably wasn’t their best outing. When they lined up against Jonesboro — a good Jonesboro team — they did some things and looked impressive doing it.
“It’s a very talented Conway team. I think they are similar to us in they’re breaking in some new faces and each week they will get better. That’s why I like the nonconference games we play because everybody we play is a quality opponent.”
Wildcats defense stout in win at Jeff City (Mo.)
Point blank, the Har-Ber defense didn’t like the way it played in Week 1 at Fort Smith Southside.
Har-Ber grabbed a 48-35 win in the River Valley, but the 38 points were the most the unit had surrendered since last season’s Week 3 loss at Oklahoma powerhouse Jenks. The Wildcats rallied and shut down the Jays offense, limiting it to 161 yards in a 38-0 win.
Altogether, Har-Ber recorded 11 tackles for loss, tied for the second most in a single game over the last three seasons. What’s even better for coach Chris Wood is a number of the players making the stops in the backfield are fresh faces. Trevor Alderson and Keaton Eagle each finished with three tackles for loss and Nick Fusher added two more.
“They had a real focus to the way they carried themselves in practice last week,” Wood said. “You could tell that in pre-game and how they were getting ready mentally. And then I thought they executed really well and flew to the football in the run game, and passing downs they were efficient with the rush. I thought that whole unit played really well for us.”
That defensive effort will likely need to make another appearance this week as Jenks visits Wildcat Stadium. The Trojans are off to an uncharacteristic 0-3 start, and have lost four straight games dating back to the 2016 playoffs, but their non-conference schedule has been among the toughest in the region (vs. Owasso, Bixby, Union).
The 0-3 start is the program’s first since 1988, and you have to go all the way back to 1968 to find the last time a Jenks team lost four consecutive games. Wood, though, expects the same ol’ Jenks on Friday.
“Their record doesn’t really speak to the quality of their team,” he said. “They’ve come up a little bit short with how the ball bounced in those first couple games, and they’ve played some dynamic people. Whenever you match up with someone that good, good teams get beat in big-time matchups.
“They’ve played three legitimate state title contenders, and they didn’t come out with the plus-end in the win column, but sometimes, like I said, you get in these non-conference matchups and you can get beat and its nothing to hang your hat about. You learn from it and move on.”
Wood also shared his thoughts on legendary Jenks coach Allan Trimble, who over the last year-plus has continued lead one of the nation’s premiere football programs while battling ALS – a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Now in his 22nd season at Jenks, Trimble has won 13 state championships, including a run of six straight (1996-2001) and four straight (2012-15).
“I’ve admired from afar,” Wood said. “I’ve admired what he’s done and what he stands for, he does it with class and his teams play the right way, they’re well-schooled. Even with the stuff he’s going through the in the last year or so he continues to move forward with a high standard. It’s impressive what he’s done, and he’s one of the elite high school coaches in the country.”
Taking a step back, on the offensive side of the ball, junior quarterback Grant Allen threw for another 195 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for a 67-yard score on a fake punt last week. His top target in the win was senior Bryton Cook, who has been Har-Ber’s most explosive skill player through two weeks.
Cook caught two passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 21 yards for a score early in the second quarter. Prior to this season, Cook had not caught a pass or recorded a single carry for Har-Ber as his primary focus was defensive back. But in two games this season he’s scored five times on six touches (4 rec., 4 TD + TD run on 2 carries).
“He was a guy coming out of junior high that was effective on the offensive side of the ball,” Wood said of Cook. “Going into this year we wanted to be sure we utilized him to the fullest and highlight his skill. I think he’s one of those kids when you talk about Har-Ber guys, Bryton is as good as we’ve got. He’s a college guy.”
On the injury front, Har-Ber will be without receiver Brock Pounders (knee) and offensive lineman Callen Cleveland (concussion) this week. Pounders will visit a doctor Thursday and expects more clarity on Pounders’ status then, Wood said. Cleveland, who’s missed the team’s first two games, is expected to return for the start of conference play next week against Rogers High.
Wood also addressed an incident that occurred in the team’s locker room in Jefferson City last week where a blackboard was broken. An allegation first surfaced on social media that Har-Ber players had vandalized the locker room, which was later refuted by Jays football coach Ted LePage.
“Our guys got a little excited, and broke a board by accident,” Wood said. “That was really the extent of it.”
A Springdale Public Schools official confirmed that it will pay for the damaged blackboard. The exact cost of the replacement was not available Wednesday.
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Red’Dogs prepping for first road trip
Surrounded by his players following Springdale’s 34-19 win against Alma last Friday, coach Zak Clark gave the team a familiar speech. But this time, though, Clark added some flare.
“Let’s go celebrate tonight, make good decisions,” he said. “Hey, and we owe Russellville from last year.”
The Cyclones edged the Red’Dogs 24-17 last season in a rain-soaked game at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium in Week 3 prior to eventually making their run toward a class 6A state championship under now-Fayetteville coach Billy Dawson.
Russellville held Springdale to one yard rushing on 14 carries a year ago. Although that group of defensive linemen have graduated and moved on from the program, Clark said the defense Springdale will face Friday will still be a challenge.
“They have a new defensive coordinator, and they are extremely aggressive,” he said. “It’s hard to drive it on teams that are high risk, high reward. … How we handle the blitz and the pressures is going to be big. Defensively they can bring pressure and still match up with you (with skill talent).”
In last year’s matchup, then-junior receiver Alex Thompson had a breakout game for Springdale with 106 receiving yards. Entering Friday Thompson is moving in on a milestone, sitting one yard away from reaching 1,000 receiving yards for his career. Following his career night last season vs. Russellville, Thompson topped 106 yards receiving twice – vs. Fayetteville, at Bentonville West.
And while he, Kamond Robinson, Jaden Cornelius and Riley Totten are Springdale’s typical top targets for Layne Hutchins and Will Mueller, running back Garrett Vaughan joined the party last week with a team-high seven grabs for 72 yards to pair with his career-high 143 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Vaughan’s seven catches marked the first time in the Zak Clark era that a running back led the team in receptions in a game. After last week’s win, Vaughan talked about the team’s need to start games faster. Springdale was held scoreless in the first quarter for a second consecutive week vs. Alma.
“We’ve just got to come out with the mindset that we’re going to outwork everybody,” Vaughan said. “First (quarter), I’m not going to lie, (Alma) had us, but in the second we came out and fought.”
Trips to Russellville bring back memories of driving down the Pig Trail for Clark. It’s been around seven years since he’s been to the school, he said. Friday, aside from a 60-mile trip down I-49 to Van Buren, is Springdale’s lone road trip of the season.
“(Russellville was) in our conference when I was growing up. It was two and a half hours. Our guys think hopping on a bus and going an hour 45 all interstate is difficult,” Clark said laughing. “We’ve got an experienced, mature bunch, and I think we’ll handle it well.”
Clark also touched on the health status of SPS associate AD Dennis DeBusk, who was hospitalized Thursday night following a heart attack. He had a stint put in, according to his wife Paula’s Facebook page. And after Springdale’s win, several Red’Dogs delivered a game ball to DeBusk in his hospital room. It was the first time in 44 years DeBusk had missed a ballgame.
“We’re glad he’s back, and he stopped by in the last couple days and we’re happy to see him,” Clark said. “He means a lot to us. He’s seen a Springdale team every game since 1995.”
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
How often does a two-time defending state champ begin the following season as an underdog in the first three games?
It’s happening to Fayetteville now. In the season opener, the Bulldogs won 22-17 at Blue Springs, the then-No. 1 team in Missouri. Last week, they lost 38-37 in overtime against Bryant, which entered the game No. 2 by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette while Fayetteville was No. 3.
This week, the Bulldogs play Dallas Bishop Dunne, a team coming off a 21-14 loss to Brentwood Academy, the No. 1 team in Tennessee. Bishop Dunne is not the top ranked team in Texas, but the Falcons do feature nearly a dozen Division-I college football prospects on their roster.
Last season, Fayetteville defeated the Falcons 35-25 in Dallas.
“I believe there are at least 11 that have been offered (scholarships),” said Fayetteville coach Billy Dawson. “They’re big and athletic; there’s no question about that. They have a five-star safety, a four-star offensive lineman and a four-star defensive lineman, so they are a very talented group and they’re very big up front.”
There are junior college teams with fewer BCS-bound players on their rosters than Bishop Dunne will field on Friday night at Harmon Stadium. One of those players is junior Marquez Beason, who accounted for more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and is considered a heavy lean to sign with Texas.
“They’ve got a lot of speed and do a great job of getting their skill guys the ball in space,” Dawson said. “Defensively, they’re front-three guys are ginormous and they can run and the entire defense runs to the ball very well.”
Fayetteville hopes to keep the Falcons’ offense off the field by playing better defensively and running the ball more effectively. It’s averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and 71.5 yards per game after gaining just 19 yards on 19 carries against Bryant.
Senior running back Dan Hinton, a 6-foot, 235-pound power rusher, could return to try to push those numbers higher. But Dawson isn’t sure if forcing Hinton into action before he’s ready will be worth the risk with 7A-West play looming.
“There’s a chance and we’re going through the process now of determining what he can do, what he can’t,” Dawson said. “I don’t think there is any doubt that he can help our running game, but I’m not sure he’ll be ready to go quite yet.”
Linebacker Carsten Johnson won’t play Friday due to injury while at least three other defensive starters playing status remains uncertain. All four starters were injured in the second half against Bryant before the Hornets rallied from a two-touchdown deficit.
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
Rogers gave up 15 points over the final seven minutes against Claremore, Okla., but Mounties coach Mike Loyd was pleased with the progress his defense made.
“I thought we improved drastically from week one to week two,” Loyd said. “I thought we were hitting people and the last time I checked, football is still a contact sport. Not as much as it was in the past, but it’s more physical than flag football and a lot of people want to play flag football out there.”
“I thought for three-fourths of the game we were the more physical team. But then we hit a couple things, a little adversity. Snap it over the head of the punter, then fumble an onside kick. We were on it, should have recovered it. Then I thought we kinda got tentative.”
Loyd praised the work of senior linebacker Justin Kiehn, along with Casey Allred and Andrew McGlynn.
“Justin, he’s been second team the last couple weeks, but I’m going to play the guys I see competing,” Loyd said. “He got a shot and I don’t know how many tackles he had, but it was way up in double digits.”
“John Horn has played well, too. He’s a kid that got moved around. John was a safety, now he’s playing linebacker. He’s shown this year, playing more phyiscal and i’ve got him playing closer to the line of scrimmage.”
The one part of the game that must improve is the running game, Loyd said.
“We need to find that guy who wil run the ball,” Loyd said. “Casey Allred has made some unbelievable blocks the last two weeks at fullback. He’s put some people on their back. We’ve got to find somebody who can run downhill behind Casey Allred.”
Running back Colin McWhorter sat out part of the fourth quarter with a possible concussions. Loyd said he was unsure of his status for Friday. The senior has been a prime passing target out of the backfield thus far with 21 receptions for more than 200 yards in two games.
Junior Clay Workman (5-10, 160), who also plays some in the secondary, will get a shot at running back this week, Loyd said. He ran for a touchdown last week in limited action on offense.
The offensive line, which includes just one returning starter and three sophomores, also needs to be more consistent, Loyd said.
“Really, it’s a mentality,” Loyd said. “We’ve got size and we’re strong in the weight room. It’s a mindset. Do you really want to block the guy? Are you going to just refuse to get beat? That’s what we’ve got to get to.”
Coach Tony Travis said there were plenty of positives from the week two loss to Russellville, but a few moments were defining.
Getting stopped at the goal-line at the end of the first half with a chance to take the lead was a huge one.
“It was a gut punch going in,” Travis said. “Tie game or a one-point lead for us. It’s a big momentum swing for them.”
The Heritage defense also looked to have a stop early in the second half with a sack on third down. But a War Eagle defender fell into the Russellville quarterback late and was flagged for a personal foul to give the Cyclones a first down. Russellville would eventually score on that drive.
“That’s a gut punch, too,” Travis said. “We gave them an onside kick. All those things.We had a lot of things go against us. We need to just split those things and have even one or two of those breaks go in our favor.”
Senior running back Dylan Qualls topped 100 yards rushing for the second conseuctive week. He was one of five, who played on both offense and defense at times. Travis said that took its toll over the course of the night, too.
“DeAndrea (Mendez) cramped up, Ty Graser cramped up,” Travis said. “Nobody was done. They all finished. But as those guys started wearing out, our play started going down a little bit. We’ve got to be smart going forward because we need those guys on the field as much as we can.”
Travis said it’s difficult for players to see positives sitting with an 0-2 record, but there were several.
“We really played well for a half against a quality football team,” Travis said. “We’ve got to find that execution and focus for four quarters. I thought Trey (Kitterman) played well. Dylan had another good night. We’re getting better up front.”
Defensive lineman Landon Evans (foot) is questionable this week, but he’s the only one with a significant injury coming out of week two, Travis said.
Heritage travels to Fort Smith Southside to face another team that is also 0-2. But Travis said losses to Springdale Har-Ber and Greenwood are nothing to hang your head over.
“If we continue to get better, we’ll be in the middle of this one,” Travis said. “We can’t take any steps backward.”
—Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Following a season-opening loss against Prairie Grove, the Cardinals got back on track with last week’s 48-18 win against Huntsville.
Senior Caleb Williams rushed 18 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns, but the story of the game was the improved passing efficiency of senior quarterback Trey Waggle, who was 16 of 22 for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He completed just 9 of 26 passes against Prairie Grove.
“When our offensive line pass protects like that, it makes everything better,” said Farmington coach Mike Adams. “We didn’t give up any sacks and focused more on play-action and the quick passing game, and (Waggle) did well in our five-step (drop back) game, too. He just played better.
“But our offensive line controlled the game up front and that’s what we have to do to be successful.”
This week, the Cardinals take on Pea Ridge, the ADG’s top-ranked team in Class 4A. Led by quarterback Jakota Sainsbury, the Blackhawks are loaded with offensive playmakers in running back Drew Winn and receivers Hayden Holtgrewe and Jordan Witcher.
“That’s three guys who will be playing (college football) on Saturdays,” Adams said. “Holtgrewe and Witcher are very talented and Winn is the fastest kid we’ve seen in a while. They’re going to score. We’ve just got to slow them down. The best we can do is to try to keep them on the sidelines by making a lot of first downs with our offense.”
Adams also said Pea Ridge’s defense is a concern, especially defensive tackle Mikey Mahoney, who “gets after you and creates a lot of problems,” and safety Robby Pickthall, who “was an all-state linebacker who moved to safety, so he can cover even more ground.”
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
After enjoying lopsided victories over Pryor, Okla., and Little Rock Central, West hits the road for the first time this season as the Wolverines travel to Muskogee, Okla., to end nonconference play.
The two teams met last season, and Muskogee jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter en route to a 62-13 victory against a West team that was without starting quarterback Will Jarrett because of an injury and without starting receiver Jadon Jackson because of a suspension.
Jarrett is healthy this time and has thrown for 557 yards and eight touchdowns to four different receivers. Jackson, who already has drawn attention from college coaches, has nine receptions for 312 yards and three touchdowns, while Tyreese Smallwood has given the Wolverines a decent ground game with 201 yards and a score in two games.
Muskogee (1-1) had an open date last week after a 54-0 rout over McAlester, Okla. — West coach Bryan Pratt’s former team before coming to West. Quarterback Jacob Medrano, the son of offensive coordinator Jason Medrano, broke a school record when he threw for 481 yards and four touchdowns.
Eight different receivers have caught at least one pass during the first two games for the Roughers, who have totalled 722 yards through the air compared to only 257 yards rushing.
Muskogee’s defense dominated McAlester, holding the Buffaloes to just 92 yards total offense and allowing them to cross midfield just once.
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
Here is a look at stat leaders from the area class 5A-7A teams through Week 2: