BENTONVILLE -- Rhiver Ewing couldn't have asked for a more friendlier roll.
Fayetteville's senior defensive lineman had the ball come right to him when Eli Hale sacked Bentonville quarterback Kasey Ford, and Ewing raced 42 yards for a tie-breaking score as the Bulldogs advanced to the Class 7A state championship game with a 31-21 semifinal victory at Tiger Stadium.
"It just bounced right into my hands," Ewing said. "Then my first thought was just to take it and run, and hopefully I would get in there. I saw a Bentonville player to my left, so I thought I better run harder."
Ewing's run, aided by a key block from a teammate near the Bentonville 20, broke a 14-14 tie and gave Fayetteville (11-2) the lead for good with 5:49 left in the first half. It was one of four turnovers the Bulldogs defense forced against Bentonville -- a stark contrast from their meeting three weeks ago when the Tigers took advantage of three turnovers t0 claim a 37-26 victory.
Garland Allison, Fayetteville wide receiver, catches an 80-yard touchdown pass Friday under pressure from Tyrone Mahone, Bentonville defensive back, on the first play of the game at Tiger Stadium in Bentonville.
Joey Savin (12), Fayetteville free safety, congratulates Andrew Ellis (10), Fayetteville defensive back, on Friday after Ellis intercepted a Bentonville pass in the second quarter at Tiger Stadium in Bentonville.
Logan Darby, Bentonville wide receiver, catches a touchdown pass Friday in the second quarter against Fayetteville.
Five plays later, Andrew Ellis intercepted a pass by Ford and returned it to the Bentonville 25 to set up another Fayetteville touchdown. Luke Rapert completed the drive with a 25-yard run, and Jon Fagg's extra-point kick gave the Bulldogs a 28-14 halftime lead.
Class 5A semifinals.
Class 7A/6A glance
FRIDAY’S 7A SEMIFINALS
Fayetteville 31, Bentonville 21
Springdale Har-Ber 37, Fort Smith Southside 7
FRIDAY’S 6A SEMIFINALS
Greenwood 61, Benton 23
Pine Bluff 52, Jonesboro 14
SATURDAY, DEC. 5
At War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock
CLASS 6A Greenwood vs. Pine Bluff, noon
CLASS 7A Springdale Har-Ber vs. Fayetteville, 6:30 p.m.
"We talked all week about being aggressive," Fayetteville Coach Daryl Patton said. "We wanted to attack them. We felt like we could get some pressure on Kasey, and he's a great quarterback. We got to him and forced some turnovers.
"That scoop-and-score is something we practice each and every day, and that was huge at that time."
Bentonville (10-2), which had its string of five consecutive championship appearances end with the loss, took the second-half kickoff and scored in 11 plays to close the gap to 28-21. Ford went around right end on the Tigers' second fourth-down play of the drive to score on a 9-yard run with 6:44 left in the third quarter.
Fayetteville went back up by two scores when Fagg kicked a 22-yard field goal late in the third quarter, capping a 18-play, 80-yard drive. Bentonville tried to close the gap again to a single score, but Hayden Moehring's 42-yard field-goal try hit where the right upright meets the crossbar and bounced away.
"We had too many turnovers to win a big football game against a quality opponent," Bentonville Coach Jody Grant said. "That was the difference in the game.
"I felt like if we could run the football and do the things we were capable of doing without turning the ball over, this would be a different deal. That wasn't the case."
Fayetteville will make its second consecutive appearance in the state championship game, where it will face Springdale Har-Ber.
Sports on 11/28/2015
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