Four questions for four writers talking 7A-West football heading into the first week of conference play.
1. True or false: Fayetteville sophomore Taylor Powell is already one of the elite quarterbacks in the 7A-West?
Jimmy Carter (Springdale beat writer) — True. He may be close to claiming the No. 1 spot by the end of the season and there’s a good chance he’ll be the league’s best next year. Look at what past Division I quarterbacks did or didn’t do as sophomores in the 7A-West and it indicates Powell will have a chance to be special. Bentonville’s Kasey Ford is his biggest competition. Springdale’s Fuller Chandler is probably also in the top three, then there’s a big dropoff.
Vernon Tarver (Fayetteville beat writer) — First off, are there any elite quarterbacks in the 7A-West? I’m not sure. But if we’re simply ranking the quarterbacks from 1 to 8 (or actually 1 to about 10 since a couple teams use more than one guy), then I wouldn’t have a problem putting Powell near the top. I’ve seen all but one of Powell’s games so far and have seen four of the other quarterbacks in the conference he’s played against from FS Northside, FS Southside, Springdale and Har-Ber. Powell has a better arm than all of ’em. But he’s still a sophomore and he makes sophomore mistakes from time to time, like staying in the pocket too long and taking too many sacks. In order to help his development Fayetteville should stick with Powell full-time, but remember he still shares snaps with junior Jack Lindsey. That being the case, I’d still put him in the top 3 in the league today with Kasey Ford at Bentonville and Fuller Chandler at Springdale.
Henry Apple (Bentonville beat writer) — I’m going to have to reserve judgement on him until I see him in person and see how well he directs Fayetteville’s offense. Nothing against the youngster, but I’m not about to put elite status on anybody I haven’t seen.
My mind also tells me to consider this: when I think of “elite” quarterbacks, I think of those I’ve seen in this conference in years past, and the first three to immediately come to my mind are the Allen brothers and Dallas Hardison (in no particular order). They were elite, and I’m not sure who would measure up to those standards right now.
Andrew Hutchinson (multimedia reporter) — True. I knew that as soon as he got 100 percent of the first-team reps, Taylor Powell would become one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. He doesn’t have as many touchdowns as Springdale’s Fuller Chandler, but he has fewer interceptions.
2. The Springdale Har-Ber at Fort Smith Southside likely determines which team finishes fourth in the 7A-West. Who you got and why?
Carter — Southside has its stingy defense, but I like Har-Ber to find a way to outscore the Rebels’ less-than-stellar offense and pull the mini-upset.
Tarver — Maybe, but not a sure thing. Har-Ber has to win this game to have even a small chance at cracking the top 4, but Southside could win and still fall into fourth place later down the line with a loss to Springdale or FS Northside. The way I see it, FS Northside, FS Southside, Fayetteville and Bentonville will all be 5-1 going into week 10. The two winners share the conference title. The two losers that week decide 3rd and 4th seeds.
I’ve got Southside over Har-Ber this week. The Rebels’ defense against the run is the difference.
Apple — I have to go with Southside on this one, basically because of its defense. The Rebels are just downright stingy when it comes to allowing points and yardage to opposing teams, and they’ll find a way to score just enough points to win it.
But you also have to consider that Southside remains in the hunt for the top spot. If the Rebels can hold on and win out, while Bentonville defeats Fayetteville, they will be the top seed and get a first-round bye. Southside still has a lot to play for in the final three weeks.
Hutchinson — I’ll keep my answer short and sweet. Fort Smith Southside. Defense.
3. Bentonville has games against the two Rogers schools in weeks eight and nine, setting the stage for a week-10 showdown against Fayetteville. How do you feel about the looming matchup.
Carter — Bentonville’s four-week span playing the Rogers and Springdale schools results in a timely boost of confidence for the Tiger offense as it continues to get untracked. But I still like Fayetteville in this matchup unless something drastically changes.
Tarver — I do expect Bentonville and Fayetteville to play for at least a share of the conference title in Week 10. And judging on past history, this regular season matchup favors the Tigers in a big way. Now if they were to rematch in the playoffs… well, that’d be another story.
Apple — These next two games are Tiger traps, and Bentonville can’t afford to be caught in one right now.
All you have to do is go back to last year’s game at Rogers Heritage. Had it not been for an ill-advised fumble in the final minute — which set up Bennett Moehring’s game-winning field goal as time expired — that game would have gone into overtime. Who knows what would have taken place after that?
This is not the time for Bentonville to rest on its laurels over the last three weeks, and I’m sure Barry Lunney will keep his foot on the accelerator with this team over the next two weeks before even thinking about Fayetteville.
Hutchinson — The Bentonville-Fayetteville game has been a huge game for several years and this year won’t disappoint. Both teams should have the conference title, or at least a share of the conference title, on the line. Bentonville’s Kasey Ford has an offer from Louisville and the aforementioned Taylor Powell is just a sophomore but already proving he is a very capable 7A-West quarterback. I like the Bulldogs’ chances in the game because of Arkansas tight end commit C.J. O’Grady and safety Dre Greenlaw, who has an offer from the Hogs. Both are big time playmakers and should help Fayetteville share the conference championship with Fort Smith Northside.
4. Here’s a softball: What’s the best stadium/press box food you’ve had this year?
Carter —Haven’t been too many places with press box food this year. But Har-Ber has Chick-fil-A at its concession stands (also did have press box food). And Springdale has Zaxby’s at its concessions. Both options are fantastic in my book. Razorback Stadium press box food is awful.
Tarver — I’ll go with two. First there was Billy Sims BBQ that was served in the press box during the Fayetteville at Muskogee, Okla. game. Love me some Billy Sims! And every week this season Fayetteville has served J.J.’s Grill in it’s pregame hospitality. Can’t say enough about J.J’s. To me, one of the most underrated joints in NW Arkansas. The spicy catfish is the bomb!
Apple — Oh, my! That was a lob. That’s an area where I have been spoiled at Bentonville over the years, and this season has been no exception.
Tiger Stadium has food come over from the Red Onion Espressoria this fall, and people in the press box have feasted on Downtown Chicken, Chicken Balsamico and “Penne From Heaven,” a pasta dish that is just outstanding. Red Onion has hit it out of the park each time with what it brings to those tables, and you should go over there and try it if you haven’t.
Just sitting here and typing this has my mouth watering, especially since Bentonville has been on the road the last two weeks. Wonder what’s in store for us Friday night?
Hutchinson — Anything not in the Arkansas press box (except for the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic – you can’t go wrong with Marketplace). Because I cover the Razorbacks, I’ve had the opportunity to eat some great food in press boxes at Auburn, Texas Tech and Cowboys Stadium. However, at the high school level, the best/most unique stadium food I had was at Bearden when I covered the Bears’ game against Junction City last week. They have what is called a “walking taco” – it’s a snack-sized bag of Doritos cut down the side, with taco meat, lettuce, cheese, etc. It was pretty good!