Cats enter Springdale Showdown on a roll
For the first time since the split, Har-Ber and Springdale High will meet as undefeateds.
Har-Ber coach Chris Wood alluded to Springdale as a football town this preseason, and both teams’ play through four weeks has reflected that. Fans and alums from both schools will fill the Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium stands with passion and pride Friday.
“This is a special community and they love their football,” Wood said. “They’re so behind student-athletes no matter what we’re involved in. To have two teams both 4-0 and off to great starts I think it’s big for our community, it’s exciting and I think it’ll be a good crowd. People are excited to watch good football.”
Har-Ber enters Friday night playing as well as any team in the state, especially on defense. The Wildcats captured their third consecutive shutout in a 49-0 drubbing of Rogers High last Friday. The three shutouts are good for the state’s longest active streak and ties for most consecutive this season — 4A Arkadelphia in Weeks 1-3.
When Har-Ber blanked Jenks (Okla.) in Week 3, 29-0, it was the first time the Trojans had been shut out since Springdale High did so 44-0 in 2005. In games prior to and after Har-Ber, Jenks hung 40 points on Oklahoma power Union and 58 on Norman (Okla.).
“I think its difficult. It’s hard to do week in and week out,” Wood said of the shutouts. “Especially with who we play and who we deal with on the other end. To be able to do it to Jenks, a good Jeff City team and Rogers, who had been scoring points, it’s a daunting task to go out there and hold people to zero. But to string a couple of those together, it’s been fun to watch from our guys. They’re playing at a high level right now.”
Har-Ber’s defense (248 ypg allowed) has been led by stout play from a front seven with 21 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and 19 quarterback hurries, and an alert secondary with five interceptions and 13 pass break-ups. Blaze Brothers, Tevin Eckwood and Griffin Clampit each came away with picks last week, and defensive lineman Blake Wade recorded the team’s lone sack.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ offense is rolling under junior quarterback Grant Allen. Har-Ber is second in the 7A-West in total offense, averaging 402 yards per game. Allen leads the league in touchdown passes (15) and completion percentage (68), hitting nine different receivers for touchdowns so far. Hunter Wood and Clay Burtrum joined the party last week with scoring grabs, and four players have at least 175 receiving yards this season.
Friday, Har-Ber’s offense will face off with arguably the conference’s top pass rush and run defense. Through four weeks, Springdale has totaled 13 sacks and is allowing only 87 yards per game on the ground. Wood has been impressed with the Red’Dogs’ defense.
“Hobbs and their defensive staff has done a fantastic job with their personnel,” he said. “I think they’ve got a really good front, they’re really active. Isaiah gets a ton of the press, and he deserves it, but the other guys who put their hand in the dirt with him are really talented kids.
“You get to watch the defense and how they play, you appreciate good ball and that’s what they’re doing,” he added. “For us, we’re trying to find ways to have productive plays on the ground. They’re going to get their plays. You’ve got to keep sawing wood. It’s the only way to try to go at a defense that is as sound as they are.”
Har-Ber’s dominant defense and explosive offense has also garnered national attention. This week, USA Today’s Super 25 high school football rankings placed Har-Ber at No. 23. Wood said he didn’t know about it until someone brought it up Tuesday.
“You’re always humbled by that and appreciative,” he said. “When you step back and look at how many great teams are out there, it’s neat and we’ll ride with it as long as we can.”
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Clark proud of Red’Dogs’ 4-0 start
Not all that long ago, Springdale fielded undersized offensive linemen out of necessity, and its feeder programs were 2-18 combined.
The hardest thing to do is believe before the results come, Springdale coach Zak Clark said. But that’s exactly what his players have done, and he couldn’t be more proud.
“This is a big game, and I anticipate there will be a huge crowd,” Clark said. “How we handle that, I don’t know. But I think we’ll handle it fine. On the other hand, who thought 2-3-4 years ago that our kids were going to put themselves in position to play a big game against Har-Ber in Week 5?
“And on top of that, there’s going to be more big games for the second half of the season. It’s pretty remarkable what these kids have done.”
Springdale improved to 4-0 last week for the first time since 2005 with a dominant win at Rogers Heritage. The 44-7 win was the most lopsided win of the Clark era, and the 44 points were the most in his tenure as well. Springdale also ran for 323 yards, the most by a Clark-coached Springdale team.
Jonathan Lopez led the Red’Dogs with 172 yards and three scores on the ground. Lopez, who Clark calls a home-run threat, filled in for an injured Garrett Vaughan, who was top three in the league in rushing yards and first in rushing scores through three weeks. Springdale’s run game didn’t miss a beat.
“We knew going into the year, no, we’re not very deep offensively, but where we have a little depth is at running back,” Clark said. “I’m proud for J-Lo. A kid like that that cares, he loves his team, he loves being a Springdale Bulldog. He’s had opportunities in a back up role, but he stepped up in a big game.”
While the offense got rolling in the run game at Heritage, Springdale’s defense also took over, which has become a theme this season. The Red’Dogs forced six turnovers, the most under Clark, and allowed under 270 yards of total offense. Sophomore defensive back Jajuan Boyd, who has the potential to become a Division I corner, starred in the win, picking off two passes and stripping the ball from a Heritage receiver.
“They’ve done a phenomenal job every game of really dominating,” Clark said of his defense. “Obviously, this is going to be the toughest test that we’ve had. Har-Ber is by far and away the best team we’ve played, and they’re the best team in the state. Our defensive line is going to have to continue to play outstanding week in and week out.”
Hosting a game of this magnitude is big for Springdale. Although Clark did not grow up in the town, he was part of the Springdale-Fayetteville rivalry growing up and as an assistant. The affection for Springdale was always there.
“I know how important and how engrained Springdale football is and how important it is to the community,” he said. “But I know it takes a lot of guys, and entire coaching staffs and administrations, and most importantly it takes great players.
“Our kids have gotten better and I’m proud of them for the fact that we have 11 good high school football players on the field, and Springdale hasn’t had that for a long time,” Clark added. “But the way these guys play for each other and the way they really care for their teammates is probably the most gratifying thing so far.”
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
The War Eagles (0-4, 0-1 7A-West ) will still be dealing with some injuries as they get set to face crosstown rival Rogers High.
Heritage lost starting offensive linemen Luis Morales to a season-ending lower leg injury in last week’s loss to Springdale High. However, starting guard Carter Hiller should return after missing last week’s game, Heritage coach Tony Travis said. The senior had some wisdom teeth pulled.
Receiver Zach Gall was held out last week with a groin strain, but Travis said he still wasn’t 100 percent. The senior has nine catches for 196 yards.
Quarterback Trey Kitterman threw for 139 yards and a touchdown against Springdale, but that’s not all. He also finished with six tackles in limited snaps at linebacker. The senior is one of a few Heritage players are playing some on both sides of the ball.
“When he’s on the field he gets to the football,” Travis said. “He has good instincts and we may have to see a little more of him over there going forward.”
Ty Graser came through the Springdale game without re-injuring an anke that he’d tweaked multiple times since first injuring it in the preseason scrimmage against Fort Smith Northside. Travis said he would like to get Graser some carries at running back, but had left him to defense only because of the bad ankle.
The Mounties (3-1, 0-1 7A-West) dropped a pair of passes early that could have resulted in big gains or touchdowns against Springdale Har-Ber. Then they have the Wildcats a short field thanks to a couple of turnovers.
That’s a recipe for disaster against the top-ranked team in the state and it came true as the Wildcats tagged Rogers with its first loss of the season. However, Mounties coach Mike Loyd said they will have to put that behind them quickly as they get set to face crosstown rival Rogers Heritage.
“My young one’s kept fighting,” Loyd said. “A-ron Jones played well. He ran it well, ran for about 60 yards, had three or four sacks.
He said a good start would benefit his young team against Heritage.
“They’ve shown they can come back against a pretty good team in Siloam Springs,” Loyd said. “I always think that with a younger team. I think everybody’s going to be jacked. But again, pretty evenly matched.
“At skill positions, running back, receiver and quarterback, they have seniors. We have sophomores and a couple senior receivers. They don’t have any sophomores playing up front on either side of the ball where we have seven. I think it’s crucial in a big game.”
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Bentonville coach Jody Grant said he is ready to get off the roller-coaster ride his team has been on this season.
The Tigers (2-2, 1-0) can do just that this week with a win Friday night against Van Buren (0-4, 0-1) and earn back-to-back victories.
“Our hope is that we are learning from both our wins and losses as we continue to progress through the season,” Grant said. “We’re going against a team that is currently 0-4, but they are hungry for a win.
“It’s important that our kids continue to stay focused and work toward another conference win.”
Bentonville has had good luck against Van Buren, having won all 10 of the past meetings dating back to 2001. That includes a 56-14 victory last year at Tiger Stadium.
The Pointers have lost their last eight games, dating back to last season, but there are some things about Van Buren that have caught Grant’s attention.
“They have one of the top running backs in Walter Green,” Grant said. “He was all-conference last season, and I’m impressed with his speed. He’s already returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this year. They give him the ball a lot, and he’s dangerous.
“Our defense is aware of his talents and abilities, and know we better tackle well or he has a chance on any play to take it to the house.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
West has enjoyed its 4-0 start, including a 43-25 victory in its 7A-West Conference opener against Van Buren.
Now the Wolverines face what coach Bryan Pratt called “the meat and potatoes of our schedule.”
“We have Fayetteville, Springdale and Har-Ber — all very tough games,” Pratt said. “Fayetteville is the defending state champion, and I don’t care if they are 1-3. They’re three plays away from being undefeated.
“They’ve scored some points against a very tough schedule. They have their backs against the wall after their loss last week, and they’re needing some momentum. I’m sure it will be a tough game.”
Pratt said the Wolverines have continued to keep the mindset each week and that has beneficial to a West team that has scored at least 43 points in each of its first four games.
“We’ve just tried to be 1-0 each week,” Pratt said. “Right now, we don’t care about anything about to get a win over Fayetteville.
“Our kids know how big of a game this is, no matter what their record is. For us being a second-year program, to play in a game like this is big. We know it can be a feather in our hat.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
The defending two-time state champions are hoping to rebound from a three-game losing skid against unbeaten Bentonville West this week.
“Coach Brian Pratt does an awesome job of developing kids and inching these kids along,” said Fayetteville first-year coach Billy Dawson. “Mentally and physically, they’re not even close to the same team from a year ago. They’ve got some really good kids and are so much better all around.”
The Bulldogs have significant injuries with several starters missing time during the three losses, but Dawson isn’t using that as an excuse. Physically, he said, “we’re banged up about as much as anybody and are about as good as we could hope to be after four physical games.”
But what about mentally? How are the players handling losing three games by a touchdown combined, including a pair of one-point, overtime losses and a road loss at rival Bentonville High?
“Mentally? We’re good,” Dawson said. “Our kids have had an excellent week and I’ve been proud of them after two good work days. The tempo and attitude has been very positive.
“Our guys know how close we are and know we’re playing our guts out. We’re doing a lot of good things and just have to make a play here or there, so they’ve been awesome.”
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
Cardinals coach Mike Adams said defeating Alma is as simple as stopping two players, although even slowing the duo down is task few teams have been able to do tuns far.
“They have probably 16 bazillion formations,” Adams said. “They have every known formation, and probably a few that are not known. But you’ve got to stop No. 8 and No. 21.
“Garrison Jensen, at quarterback, can throw it really well and is a returning all-state linebacker, so he’s a big, physical kid and if you flush him (out of the pocket), he’s going to hurt you, so you want to keep him under control if you can.
“Then Brayden Johnson is a returning all-state receiver who, at 6-4, gives you match-up problems. They line him up all over the field in literally every skill position there is.
“Those are the guys you’ve got to get stopped.”
Farmington hopes to keep the duo off the field by using an effective running game to control time of possession. The Cardinals have had success thus far with Caleb Williams rushing for 244 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win against Clarksville.
“Alma is as big as they always are and for us to be successful, we’re going to have to be able to run the football,” Adams said. “That’s our personality, that’s our philosophy and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’ve done a pretty good job of it this year and Caleb Williams has been a big part of that and our offensive line has done a good job in the running game.”
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
Here is a look at area stat leaders through four weeks of play: