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story.lead_photo.caption Fayetteville players celebrate after the Bulldogs’ victory over North Little Rock in the Class 7A championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. It was the Bulldogs’ second consecutive state title and fifth overall. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

The experience of Taylor Powell showed for Fayetteville in its third Class 7A consecutive state championship game appearance Friday night.

[HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCOREBOARD: Full results + recaps, photos and more]

Gallery: 7A State Championship Football
Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun
Fayetteville senior quarterback Taylor Powell, who passed for 265 yards and four touchdowns, was named the game’s MVP.
Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun
Fayetteville wide receiver Brennon Lewis (left) goes up to catch a pass over North Little Rock defender Xzavier Wyatt during Friday night’s Class 7A state championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Lewis scored two touchdowns as the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half to win their second consecutive title.

The experience of Taylor Powell showed for Fayetteville in its third Class 7A consecutive state championship game appearance Friday night.

The senior quarterback completed 15 of 26 passes for 265 yards and 4 touchdowns as the Bulldogs routed North Little Rock 53-19 in front of 10,152 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

It was the second consecutive state championship for Fayetteville (12-1) and fifth overall. The Bulldogs also won the state title in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Powell, who has orally committed to Wake Forest and was the 2015 All-Arkansas Preps offensive player of the year, capped his high school career with 10,413 yards and 113 touchdowns. He completed the 2016 season with 3,473 yards and 44 touchdowns.

"You just saw him over and over again put us on his shoulders," Fayetteville Coach Bill Blankenship said. "Third down runs, throwing with pressure on where he and Barrett [Bannister] have done it for 10 years and 10,000 throws. He's a special guy."

[VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Key moments in Friday's 7A state title game]

As a sophomore in 2014, Powell was less than three minutes away from leading Fayetteville to a state championship victory over Bentonville, but the Tigers won 24-21. Powell then led the Bulldogs to a 28-7 victory as a junior last season against Springdale Har-Ber.

"It's been great," Powell said. "You have to give it up to all the guys who have been with me. It's all the coaching staff and the players around me. They've helped us get to Little Rock for three years."

Bannister caught two of Powell's touchdown passes, finishing with 7 catches for 124 yards. Fellow senior Brennon Lewis caught in the other two touchdowns from Powell.

North Little Rock (12-1), which won the 7A-Central Conference this season, committed three turnovers in Friday's loss.

"A game of this magnitude, you can't turn it over," Charging Wildcats Coach Jamie Mitchell said. "I don't say you have to play perfect, but boy, every mistake is magnified."

North Little Rock, which trailed 20-13 at halftime, pulled within 20-19 with 10:39 remaining in the third quarter on senior Trey Cox's 45-yard touchdown pass to senior Wynton Ruth. Fayetteville responded, as Powell found Bannister for a 44-yard touchdown and a 26-19 lead with 9:48 remaining in the third quarter.

On the Charging Wildcats' next drive, Cox was intercepted by senior Trey Coulter, who returned it 20 yards to the North Little Rock 38. Two plays later, Powell threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Lewis to make it 33-19 with 7:37 left in the third quarter.

North Little Rock had an opportunity to pull closer, but Cox fumbled and senior defensive lineman Kester Olson returned it 88 yards for a touchdown to extend Fayetteville's lead to 40-19 at the 2:44 mark of the third quarter. Olson's fumble return and score was the longest in state championship game.

Fayetteville added to its lead in the fourth quarter with a 13-yard run by junior Dan Hinton and a 22-yard interception return by senior Luke Waller.

Entering Friday's game, North Little Rock averaged 254.3 yards on the ground. But the Charging Wildcats were held to 197 yards rushing and senior Alex Day limited to 87 yards on 26 carries.

"They're real good running the football," Blankenship said. "We really tried to crowd the line and we gave up some throws. We tried to undercut some. We kept thinking we could get a couple of turnovers if we could force them to keep throwing. Getting them a little behind the chains helped us."

Cox finished 23-of-38 passing for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Ruth caught 9 passes for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns while senior Deontae Montgomery had 8 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

North Little Rock was playing in its first state championship game since the merger of Ole Main and Northeast high schools in 1990. Mitchell, who led Starkville (Miss.) High School to a Class 5A state championship in 2012, expects more from the Charging Wildcats in the future.

"Getting here is not good enough," Mitchell said. "These guys fought so hard to get here. But we have to find a way to get over that hump. That's the next step for this program, not just getting here, but winning."

Sports on 12/03/2016

Print Headline: Powell does it again

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