Wildcats take 5-0 mark to Bentonville
For the first time in school history, Har-Ber enters October at 5-0.
The Wildcats grabbed their fifth win of the season to cap a successful September by scoring in all three phases at rival Springdale in a 56-14 win. Grant Allen accounted for 243 total yards and five touchdowns, Miller Herndon returned an interception 38 yards for a score, and Tevin Eckwood’s 85-yard kickoff return provided a jolt in Har-Ber’s 28-point second quarter.
But perhaps more importantly, Har-Ber got its running game going again. The Wildcats rushed for 192 yards against Springdale, the most in a game since a Week 1 win at Fort Smith Southside (245). Allen scored with his feet twice and running back Payton Copher added a season-high 70 yards on the ground.
As a whole, coach Chris Wood was pleased with the play of his offensive line, which found itself up against a stout run defense in Springdale.
“I thought we did a nice job in the line. Of course there were some busts in there that allowed some free runners, but overall I thought we handled the front pretty well,” he said. “We gave up one or two sacks, but I know we were able to step up in the pocket, and I thought that was important. We knew going into it that Springdale was going to get some pressure, they did, but overall I thought we were productive in what we do to accomplish success.”
After a punt on the first possession of the night, Allen found Hunter Wood for a 39-yard touchdown pass to get Har-Ber on the board. The score was Har-Ber’s 14th scoring play of at least 20 yards this season. For context, the Wildcats had 17 such plays all of 2016:
The first 23-yard TD catch was to Logan Collins, not Matt Thomas. Box score I received attributed Thomas with the TD. #arpreps
— Scottie Bordelon (@NWAScottie) October 2, 2017
“If we can get the ball in our guys’ hands, and I think that’s been the big key this year, is trying to disperse the ball,” Wood said. “It’s come from all over the place. I felt coming into the year that we had a multitude of guys that could do that for us. To have the balance we do is key. We’ve just got to get them touches.”
Defensively, Har-Ber’s shutout streak came to a close on Darrell Parchman’s 65-yard touchdown reception, but it was the lone offensive score allowed in the win and the only offensive score surrendered in the last four weeks. In total, the shutout streak lasted 163 minutes, seven seconds. Also, over the last two weeks, the Wildcats have recorded six interceptions — the most in a two-week span since 2013.
Herndon, Eckwood and Chase Strickland each recorded picks last week and Nick Fusher also picked up a Springdale fumble. The Wildcats’ defense will be tested again this week at rival Bentonville, a staple across the state over the last 10-15 years. And slowing Kam’Ron Mays-Hunt, who many consider the state’s top receiver, is likely priority No. 1.
Mays-Hunt caught seven passes for a game-high 129 yards in last year’s 29-15 loss to Har-Ber. Keeping him out of the end zone, which has proven difficult this season, would be ideal for Har-Ber. With all-state defensive back Blaze Brothers opposite Mays-Hunt, the matchup figures to be a key for both sides.
“It’s a big challenge because he’s really dynamic and a really talented young man,” Wood said of Mays-Hunt. “He could play D1 football if he wanted to. His skill set is so unique and special. I don’t know if you can truly contain him, but you try to limit the damage and the big plays.
“We know Bentonville is a hard place to play and go win at,” he added. “The biggest thing is just the respect we have, and knowing we’ve got to be zoned in and focused. That will give us the best chance to be successful.”
On the injury front, Wood said junior receiver Brock Pounders could see time on Friday. Pounders injured his knee in Har-Ber’s Week 2 win at Jefferson City (Mo.) and has not played since. He has been cleared for contact and is practicing this week, Wood said.
— Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Red’Dogs looking to rebound
Can the Red’Dogs bounce back from their first loss of the season after an emotional week?
That’s the question Springdale coach Zak Clark is eager to find an answer to as undefeated Bentonville West prepares to roll into Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium on Friday. Springdale is in the midst of a difficult three-game stretch against the three remaining unbeaten teams in league play.
The team practiced well Tuesday, Clark said. And Friday presents an opportunity for Springdale to get the bad taste out of its mouth after last week’s 56-14 loss. The Red’Dogs were bit by three interceptions and a lost fumble, and the run game was largely shut down (42 yards on 24 carries).
“Sometimes when you win in spite of some mistakes, being minus in the turnover margin or more penalized than the opposition, it masks some of those deficiencies,” Clark said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball and play cleaner.
“But I think they’re ready to go,” he added. “We’re hungry to get back out there, and just play well and compete. We still feel good about this team and about each other. Hopefully this just refocuses us.”
The bright spots for Springdale in the loss, though, were evident. Sophomore running back Darrell Parchman caught a 65-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Layne Hutchins in the second quarter, snapping Har-Ber’s run of three consecutive shutouts. Parchman’s scoring grab was Springdale’s longest pass play from scrimmage since the late Kyler Williams’ 67-yard touchdown against Rogers Heritage in 2016, and the third longest of Clark’s tenure.
Springdale’s other score Friday came by way of the defense. Kapone Wise returned a Grant Allen interception 92 yards for a touchdown to pull the Red’Dogs within 28-14 late in the second half. Although the play was a short-lived momentum swing, Clark was impressed by the play and his entire unit during the sequence.
“No. 1, it was a phenomenal individual play, but you look at how our kids … it wasn’t like it was a one-man play, or he picked it off on an out route kind of pass,” Clark said. “He picked it off behind everybody. He got to the sideline like he was supposed to, and it looked like a walled-off kickoff return after that. We had just turned it over, and that essentially got us back into the ballgame at that time.”
This week, West presents challenges similar to Har-Ber for Springdale’s defense. The Wolverines have 11 scoring plays of at least 20 yards through five weeks and spread deep-ball threats across the field in the form of receivers Jadon Jackson, Stefan Banda and Jackson Prince. Wise, cornerback Jajuan Boyd and the Red’Dogs’ secondary will best tested vertically and in the open field.
Clark and his staff are well-aware of West’s big-play ability offensively, and the key will be in limiting that. So how does Springdale slow West? Ball control and tempo. The Red’Dogs are hoping to again find success in the run game after rushing for a Clark-era high 323 yards just two weeks ago.
“The formula for us is we’ve got to be able to run the football,” he said. “We felt like we did that a little bit last week early. Just the fact that when we were behind and having to throw the ball almost every down, that’s not ideal. We’ve got to get those guys frustrated, and the only way I think that can happen is if we keep that offense on the sideline and run the ball.
“(West’s) defensive line is better and they’re good up front,” he added. “They play really fast and everyone can run on defense. That’s where their greatest improvement has been from last year is defensively. They have some really good players and they’re playing at a high level. Everything you get you’re going to have to earn. We’re going to have to catch some contested balls and know where Kendall Young and Hunter Swoboda are.”
— Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Mounties coach Mike Loyd looks past Fayetteville’s 1-4 record this week.
“We’ve won every game we’ve had a chance to win in my opinion,” Loyd said. “This week’s a different level. They are one and four, but they’re still one of the better football teams in the state. Fayetteville has played one of the toughest schedules in the state.”
Rogers High (4-1, 1-1 7A-West) put together a solid offensive effort to knock off crosstown rival Rogers Heritage 43-33, but the Mounties must be better defensively this week. The War Eagles rushed for more than 350 yards behind running back Dylan Qualls and quarterback Trey Kitterman.
“We didn’t do a good job defensively at times against Heritage, but we found a way to win,” Loyd said. “We had some misalignments, some missed tackles.
“Honestly, it felt kind of like a Big 12 game. The last person with the ball was going to win.”
Brothers Shane and Jacob Taylor teamed up to make a big defensive play that gave the Mounties a two score lead early in the second half. Shane Taylor pressured Kitterman and forced him to throw off-target.
Jacob Taylor intercepted the Kitterman pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown that pushed Rogers’ lead to 22-13 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Hunter Loyd threw for 260 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score. Senior running back/receiver Colin McWhorter combined for 185 yards of total offense (106 rush/79 receiving) and three touchdowns.
The War Eagles (0-5, 0-2 7A-West) face an opponent in a similar circumstance on Friday. Both Rogers Heritage and Van Buren are searching for their first win of the season.
Heritage coach Tony Travis said his team can’t let the emotion of losing to its crosstown rival linger this week, which is exactly what happened a year ago against the Pointers. That and a rash of injuries in the first half that led to Van Buren pulling away for a 32-14 win.
“We just couldn’t do anything in the second half after those guys went down,” Travis said. “The key for us is going to be be, now I’ve seen them play with some fire for four quarters. Why can’t we do that against everybody and not just our rivals?”
Senior receiver Jay De La Rosa, who sat out last week’s game because of a concussion could play Friday, Travis said.
“He hasn’t been cleared yet, but we’re hoping to get him back,” Travis said.
De La Rosa is one of the top receivers in the area with 23 receptions for 390 yards and three touchdowns. But the fact the War Eagles didn’t have him against Rogers had not bearing on the lack of passing.
Heritage found success running the ball as a team behind the duo of running back Dylan Qualls and quarterback Trey Kitterman.
“We were try to stick with what was working and we had a little something going in the running game,” Travis said.
He wished he had taken his own advice at a key point in the game in the second half when the War Eagles were in Rogers territory. Travis opted for a pass on third-and-7, but it was picked off and returned for a touchdown.
“It’s two-down territory, we very well could have just stuck with the run and still got the first down,” Travis said. “They get quick pressure on Trey and boom! Pick six and we go from having a chance to take the lead and putting pressure on them to being down two scores.”
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
‘Dogs host ‘really good’ Mounties club
Just when it appeared the Bulldogs might get a break from playing the toughest schedule in the state, Rogers High comes to town sporting a 4-1 record.
Conversely, Fayetteville is 1-4 and 0-2 in 7A-West play heading into Friday’s game against the Mounties at Harmon Field.
“They’re 4-1 for a reason,” said Fayetteville first-year coach Billy Dawson. “They’re playing hard, they’re playing some young guys and I think they’re going to be really good.
“I really like their quarterback and they’ve got two very talented receivers ad they’re front is really good. I think we’re going to have to play well because they’re going to come to play.”
Dawson said his players have continued showing positive, get-better-each day attitudes despite losing four straight games for the first time since 2009.
“Kids are handling it well; I like how they’ve responded,” Dawson said. “Our kids are playing hard and the thing is our kids have played really well at times. You can take pretty much every game we’ve played and there are about three or four plays where we didn’t make plays we needed to make, and it’s hard to overcome those against certain teams.
“We’re trying to take advantage of some things we can correct and I feel like we’ve gotten better every week.”
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
The Tigers have started finding a way to rid themselves of the turnover problems they had during nonconference play.
Bentonville (3-2, 2-0) turned the ball over 10 times in its three nonconference games and had a turnover margin of minus-8. In their two 7A-West games, the Tigers have only had one turnover — which came when a punt bounced and hit a player on the leg — and have enjoyed a plus-4 turnover margin.
“We’ve turned the tables, and we had to,” Bentonville coach Jody Grant said. “That’s how you win football games — by getting turnovers and not turning the football over, and it’s the truth.
“You look at our two losses, and we turned the ball over and didn’t force a turnover. In our wins, we’re getting a significant amount of turnovers. We work ball security and preach about turnovers to the point where they’re tired of hearing about it, but they see the benefits of it on Friday nights. We’ll have to get some this week, no doubt about it.”
Those turnovers will have to come against a very talented Springdale Har-Ber team in a battle of two unbeatens in conference play, and Grant said this year’s Wildcats aren’t the same team they have been in the past.
“This is a big game, and our kids are excited about it,” Grant said. “We obviously waited until Monday to talk about it. The winner of this one positions itself for the opportunity to have good seeding in the playoffs, but there are still a lot of games to be played. This may be the best Har-Ber team they’ve had, and they’ve had some good ones.
“They’re really, really good on defense, and I’m impressed with they can cover on the back end. Offensively, they have changed what they have done schematically in a sense where they used to be a power and counter team out of 20 personnel, and now in a lot of no-back, doubles, one-back and doubles, empties and quads.”
The Wolverines will begin a serious two-game road swing this week as they prepare for Friday’s game against a Springdale team that suffered its first loss last week against Har-Ber.
“We’ve talked to our kids this week about this being a trap game for us,” West coach Bryan Pratt said. “We had a big win over Fayetteville, and with Springdale coming off a loss to its big rival, I’m sure they will have their team fired up for this one since they are playing at home again.
“Our mindset is that we play on the road every week. We have to get on the bus and move every week, so there’s nothing that’s any different about this week. We anticipate our kids playing well and doing what we’ve been doing. The practices have been good, and the kids are still hungry.”
West (5-0, 2-0) could hit uncharted waters Friday night with a win over Springdale. A victory would give the Wolverines an overall record of 9-8, putting them over the .500 mark for the first time in school history.
“That’s a big deal,” Pratt said. “Everybody looks at a school’s won-loss percentages, and last year’s wasn’t that good. We have fought our way back to get where we need to be this season. But we still have some winning to do, and it’s fun.
“It was kind of a surreal moment last week walking into the indoor over there and remembering 2 1/2 years ago when we had 30 kids and people thinking we weren’t going to be that good. To watch our student section and the crowds get bigger and having vehicles with Wolverine stickers on their cars is exciting as we build a program here.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry