VIDEO: Football: Bentonville claims 7A-West title

Posted: November 4, 2017 at 5:59 a.m.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF Bentonville High's Kam'ron Mays-Hunt (center top) and Andrew Bartgis (center left) stop Bentonville West running back Tyreese Smallwood just short of the goal line Friday at Tiger Stadium in Bentonville.

BENTONVILLE -- Jared Richey fought through his blocker and was closing in for a possible sack when the Bentonville West quarterback tried to get off a pass.

Richey, Bentonville High's senior outside linebacker, had help from a couple of teammates on the play. They forced West quarterback Will Jarrett into an intentional grounding penalty, and because Jarrett was in the end zone when he attempted the pass, the play resulted in a safety.

Bentonville HIgh 37, Bentonville West 28

Bentonville^13^15^0^0^—^28

Bentonville West^7^21^0^9^—^37

First Quarter

Bent — Miller 1 run (Younger kick), 5:57.

West — Smallwood 2 run (McDoulett kick), 2:40.

Bent — Smith 56 pass from Lyons (Pass fails), :47.

Second Quarter

West — McDonald 48 pass from Jackson (McDoulett kick), 11:40.

Bent — Mays-Hunt 18 pass from Lyons (Miller run), 10:44.

West — Jackson 11 pass from Jarrett (McDoulett kick), 6:31.

Bent — Mays-Hunt 98 kickoff return (Younger kick), 6:14.

West — Jackson 34 pass from Jarrett (McDoulett kick), 1:37.

Fourth Quarter

Bent — Safety intentional grounding in end zone, 10:13.

Bent — Crawford 6 run (Younger kick), 6:31.

The Tigers used the two points from the safety and a touchdown from the resulting short drive after the West kickoff to claim a 37-28 win and the 7A-West Conference championship in front of a standing-room-only crowd Friday night in Tiger Stadium.

Bentonville (8-2, 7-0 7A-West) won its seventh straight game by leaning on its defense in the second half. The Tigers shut West (9-1, 6-1) out in the second half after allowing 28 first-half points.

"This was a team effort as a whole, it wasn't just one person," Richey said. "In the locker room at halftime we came up with a good game plan and we just executed it. We switched things up a little bit to catch them off-guard and it seemed to work for us the rest of the game."

The top two teams in the 7A-West played like it. In the first half it was the offenses making the noise, and in the second half the defenses of both teams dominated.

Special teams were also a big factor as Bentonville got a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Kam'ron Mays-Hunt, and Tigers' quarterback-punter Nathan Lyons kept the Wolverines pinned back most of the second half with three punts inside the 20.

"If you're asking me what the keys to the game were, I thought it was turnovers and special teams," West coach Bryan Pratt said. "I think they definitely won the special teams and turnover battle."

Bentonville scored touchdowns on its first four offensive possessions of the game. West was almost as good, scoring four times on five possessions in the opening half.

Mays-Hunt scored two of Bentonville's touchdowns, grabbing an 18-yard scoring pass from Lyons to put the Tigers on top 21-14 with 10 minutes, 44 seconds left in the second quarter, then answering a West touchdown with a 98-yard return of the ensuing kickoff to put the Tigers back up 28-21.

But West seemingly had an answer for every Bentonville strike as the Wolverines used an array of offensive weapons for numerous big plays. After falling behind 7-0 and 13-7, West used a receiver pass from Jaden Jackson to Nick Whitlatch for 48 yards to give the Wolverines their first lead of the game at 14-13.

Jackson was also on the receiving end of a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett with 1:37 left in the first half that evened the score at 28-28.

For all the fireworks the opening half brought, the second half was the exact opposite as the defenses took turns coming up with key stops.

"Listen, this is two really good football teams battling it out tonight," Bentonville coach Jody Grant said. "Both teams laid it on the line. This was a lot of fun tonight.

"We made some adjustments in the second half that our kids bought in to. I'm just proud of their effort. I'm going to be honest with you ... winning a conference championship is important to these young men."

Both teams will get first-round byes next week for the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs, then both will have home games for the second round.

Sports on 11/04/2017