In the late 1980s, Benton-ville briefly played as an independent instead of being aligned in a conference because school officials didn’t think the Tigers could compete in a league with the larger schools they had been assigned to.
My, how the landscape has changed.
Bentonville High has developed into one of the top overall programs in the state and Bentonville West is one victory away from winning a conference championship in its second year of varsity football. The champion will be determined tonight at Tiger Stadium, where the Wolverines will serve as the home team.
Extra bleachers were brought in earlier this week for a rivalry that has grown quickly in Benton County.
Bentonville West (9-0, 6-0) is trying to follow the same path as Springdale Har-Ber, which reached the state championship game as a second-year program in 2007. Bentonville High (7-2, 6-0) is attempting to win its seventh consecutive game and claim another conference championship before both teams head to the playoffs.
Bentonville was largely written off as a championship contender after the Tigers lost two of their first three games. But Bentonville got on a roll that began with a 32-27 win over Fayetteville and continued with last week’s 70-0 victory over outmanned Rogers Heritage. West grabbed a big lead then rested its starters in the second half of a 35-13 victory over Rogers High.
Bentonville will attempt to slow receiver Jadon Jackson, who made it look easy against Rogers last week. Jackson caught two 19-yard touchdown passes and a 25-yard touchdown pass to go along with a 1-yard run when he was lined up in the backfield. Bentonville quarterback Nathan Lyons threw four touchdown passes for the third consecutive game last week and the Tigers possess a defense that can turn mistakes into points.
The only certainty is that Tiger Stadium will be packed tonight for the newest rivalry in Class 7A. I’ll take the Tigers in what will hopefully be a good, clean game.
RICK’S PICK Benton-ville High
Other games involving teams from Northwest Arkansas (selections are capitalized).
SPRINGDALE HAR-BER at Rogers Heritage
FAYETTEVILLE at Van Buren
Rogers at SPRINGDALE Fort Smith Northside at FORT SMITH SOUTHSIDE
GREENWOOD at Lake Hamilton
SILOAM SPRINGS at Russellville
Maumelle at ALMA
Farmington at HARRISON Clarksville at MORRIL-TON
GRAVETTE at Gentry
Berryville at HUNTS-VILLE
Lincoln at PRAIRIE GROVE
PEA RIDGE at Shiloh Christian
Waldron at DARDA-NELLE
OZARK at Dover
BOONEVILLE at Subiaco Academy
POTTSVILLE at West Fork
Green Forest at ELKINS
Melbourne at GREEN-LAND
Mansfield at CHARLES-TON
Lamar at PARIS
Magazine at Western Yell County
LAST WEEK 22-3 (88 percent)
OVERALL 176-45 (80 percent)
Rick Fires can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@NWARick.