Purple’Dogs must clean up mistakes with Wildcats up next
In recent weeks, Fayetteville (6-1, 3-1 7A-West) has reeled off strong performances on offense in wins against Bentonville West, Rogers High and Rogers Heritage.
Not only has quarterback Taylor Powell and his slew of receivers continued to make things difficult on opposing defenses, but the Bulldogs’ rushing attack led by Terrance Rock has also picked up the pace.
Rock, named the ARPreps Athlete of the Week, rushed for 195 yards and just two touchdowns on just 13 carries and added a 40-yard TD reception in Fayetteville’s 48-17 win last Friday against Rogers Heritage.
“We knew what we had with Powell and Barrett Banister,” Fayetteville coach Bill Blankenship said. “But we really needed to establish that running game and that balance in the offense.”
Fayetteville’s defense has also delivered better performances in the conference schedule, with one hiccup perhaps coming against Rogers High when the Mountaineers were able to total 356 total yards, including 259 passing against the Purple’Dogs D.
But while Fayetteville has improved in many areas leading up to a big showdown Friday with Springdale Har-Ber, one major area of concern continues to be penalties. The Bulldogs committed 11 penalties for 119 yards against Rogers Heritage and are averaging eight penalties for more than 80 yards per game in conference play.
Those numbers must decrease, one would figure, if Fayetteville hopes to pull out a victory Friday against the Wildcats.
“We made some plays we needed to make (against Heritage),” Blankenship said. “But we keep making mistakes. The penalties are just killing me.”
— Vernon Tarver • @NWAVernon
Mounties’ defense strong in second half
Rogers coach Mike Loyd challenged his defense at halftime and the Mounties rose to the challenge.
Rogers (5-2, 2-2 7A-West) led only 9-7 at halftime against Van Buren and the Pointers looked to be grabbing the momentum in the second quarter. But Rogers allowed just three first downs in the final two quarters and went on to the 26-7 win.
“I was impressed, I thought our kids played hard,” Loyd said. “I thought we willed ourselves to victory in the second half.”
“We made some changes, went to an even front and changed some things up. You can’t just do the same thing over and over unless you’re just better defending the triple option. I think we had them a little confused and off-balance a little bit.”
The Mounties’ defense has made some strides the last couple of weeks, after Loyd decided to focus on some fundamentals, specifically tackling better. But seniors Hunter Hawkins and Grayson Lee, two starters on offense, also played quite a bit on defense last week.
“Defense to me, more than offense, is an attitude and a mindset,” Loyd said. “I thought we did a good job tackling last week. Two weeks ago, I implemented that we do tackling drills twice a week.”
Rogers finishes with road games at Bentonville and Bentonville West, then hosts Springdale High. The Mounties would likely host a first-round playoff game by winning two out of their last three.
War Eagles still dealing with injuries
Rogers Heritage was without two of its five starting offensive linemen last week and they could be out for the remainder of the season, coach Tony Travis said.
Center Jordan Resor (shoulder) was replaced by junior Jacob Lanaham, while right guard Armando Lugo, a junior, is out with a knee injury. Junior Christian Combs and senior Matt Lowe both saw action at that spot. Senior Chuck Ellison, who missed the second half against Van Buren with a should injury, played most of the game against Fayetteville.
“I thought Jacob did a good job,” Travis said. “We had a couple bad snaps, but with what he was faced with, he did a pretty job for his first night starting. Number one, we didn’t notice the center a lot, which is a good thing. We were in shotgun for all but one snap.”
Travis was pleased with what the offensive line did overall, missing two starters and moving a couple of people to different spots.
“We’re banged up a little bit and we’re moving some guys,” Travis said. “Early on we did a good job and kept Fayetteville off the field a little bit. When you play an offense like that, that’s got to be a goal to keep them off the field.”
The War Eagles (0-7, 0-4 7A-West) missed a couple of great scoring chances and that can’t happen against a team as talented as Fayetteville.
“We had a good drive and had first-and-goal at the 6 and on first down got a chop block,” Travis said. “That gives us first and goal from the 21. Then we had an opportunity where Fayetteville snapped it over the punter’s head and gave us the ball and didn’t cash in.”
Travis saw some good things offensively, but Fayetteville’s depth was too much in the end.
“They rolled a lot of defensive guys against us and I think the depth they had got us,” Travis said. “Zach Gall continues to impress. He had some great catches.”
Travis said Bentonville West has impressed him with what the Wolverines have done without any seniors in a first-year program.
“They’ve beat two teams that have beat us and that’s got our attention for sure,” Travis said. “If both teams show up and play good, I think it’s gonna be a great ballgame. It’ll come down to mistakes and big plays. It will be interesting to see which defense will be able to put together some stops.”
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Tigers seek faster starts
Bentonville has had its share of problems establishing things during the early part of its games, and coach Jody Grant hopes a solution can be found soon.
The Tigers (5-2, 3-1 7A-West) led by only a 10-0 margin in last week’s game against Springdale High before Grant and his coaching staff challenged them at halftime, which led to a 38-0 victory.
“We had a couple of offensive possessions where we struggled and weren’t executing very well,” Grant said. “A lot of that goes on us, but credit Springdale as well with some of the things it did.
“It took our kids a little bit, and it’s something we’re fighting through right now. We don’t need to wait around to start playing. We need to be playing when the first ball gets kicked off, and we’re working on that.”
Perhaps a change of scenery into familiar surroundings will help the Tigers this week. After two straight trips into Springdale, Bentonville gets to return home this week and celebrate homecoming against Rogers High.
“It seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve played here,” Grant said. “We’re excited about that opportunity and always have a good crowd here on Friday nights, and the kids are looking forward to playing in front of a full stadium again.”
Wolverines eye ‘something special’
Talk of Bentonville West earning a playoff berth in its inaugural year has already ballooned into the possibility of hosting a first-round playoff game.
Wolverines coach Bryan Pratt, however, said those things won’t happen unless the team remains focused on the current task at hand. For this week, that means a game at Rogers Heritage.
“In these next two weeks, we have a chance to do something special,” Pratt said. “If we win the next couple of games, we have a chance at hosting a playoff game. Not many people thought we would be in the playoffs, much less to finish with a chance to host a playoff game.
“Hopefully we can get better in practice and perform well against Heritage and give ourselves that chance. If we don’t come away victorious at Heritage, then all of that talk is for naught.”
Pratt was quick to note that, although Heritage is winless this season under new coach Tony Travis, the War Eagles had the ability to keep things close for a half against Fayetteville.
“I know Heritage has this game circled as a game it thinks it can win,” Pratt said. “They’re playing better and looked well early against Fayetteville. They took Rogers down to the final seconds.
“And any time you’re a team like us, you have to play well in every game to give yourself a chance.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
Wildcats, Purple’Dogs fight for 7A-West’s top spot
Har-Ber defensive back Tevin Eckwood proudly held a wrestling-style championship belt over his head last Friday in the Wildcats’ 45-0 win over Bentonville West.
The championship belt has become something of a tradition for the Har-Ber defense. With each turnover forced, the defender causing the miscue holds the belt and, this season, its been passed around quite a bit.
“(Defensive coordinator Keith Fimple) got the idea from the University of Alabama,” Eckwood wrote to the NWADG in a Twitter message this week. “We are very excited about it and it’s a really good motivation to cause turnovers. Right now we have caused over 20 turnovers this season so far.”
Har-Ber recorded a season-high six sacks and tied its season-high with five forced turnovers – two interceptions, three fumble recoveries – against the Wolverines. Eckwood, on the sideline, got his chance to hoist the championship belt again after his second pick-6 of the season, a 53-yarder.
This week, Har-Ber’s defense will need to be on its game as Fayetteville comes to Wildcat Stadium for a defacto conference title game. The Wildcats are the lone undefeated team in conference play as Fayetteville enters with one loss – to Bentonville.
“I think it’ll be exciting and there will be a great crowd,” Har-Ber coach Chris Wood said. “There’s a lot on the line. Last year we played them here and it was a great crowd. It’ll be the same, and I think there will be a good energy about it.”
Wood also added that his team will be full strength heading into the most important game of the season.
“We’re going into this week probably as healthy as we’ve been all year,” he said. “We’re healthy and ready to roll.”
— Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Red’Dogs out to regain traction at Van Buren
Springdale coach Zak Clark believes last week was among the best performances his defense has had this season. The Red’Dogs walked into halftime down just 10-0 to Bentonville, who’d beaten Fayetteville just three weeks prior.
Springdale sacked Tigers quarterback Canaan Ross four times in the second quarter and allowed its lone touchdown of the first half on Bentonville’s opening drive. This week, a strong defensive effort will be needed again against Van Buren’s unique triple-option offense.
“You’ve got to really be disciplined and have a good week of practice. You only get one shot, and we won’t see it again the rest of the year,” Clark said. “I don’t know what their (passing) stats are, but they throw it better than most flexbone teams.
“That’s what hurts you in the flexbone more than anything are the teams who can throw out of it. If you don’t read your keys they can have guys running wide open.”
One way Springdale has attacked practice this week is working through its defensive keys and reads without a football, going through the Pointers’ plays and developing stronger eye discipline.
“You just don’t see an offense like that, and if you watch them early in the game they always seem to come out pretty strong,” Clark said. “If we can adjust to the speed of the game defensively the better we’ll do.”
Clark now hopes his offense and special teams can follow suit alongside the defensive efforts. The Bulldogs turned the ball over three times in the 38-0 loss to Bentonville and averaged just 26.4 yards per punt.
“I was very proud (of the defense),” he said. “We played hard, tackled well and it was good to see defensively the way we bounced back. Hopefully we’ll see that on the offensive side.
“If we can play a complete game there’s no reason we can’t surprise some people. We’re a very scary team right now if we can execute at the level we’re capable of.”
— Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Springdale Har-Ber – 6-1, 4-0
Bentonville – 5-2, 3-1
Fayetteville – 6-1, 3-1
Bentonville West – 2-5, 2-2
Rogers – 5-2, 2-2
Springdale – 3-4, 1-3
Van Buren – 2-5, 1-3
Rogers Heritage – 0-7, 0-4