BENTONVILLE -- Bentonville West has learned in a very short time how to get to championship games in the 7A-West.
Bentonville High has known for quite a while how to win them.
Bentonville High defeated West 31-7 Friday before an overflow crowd at Tiger Stadium. It was the second straight win in the championship game for Bentonville over the West Wolverines, a third-year program.
"This is so sweet," said Bentonville senior Harrison Campbell. "This was our plan, man, to win a conference championship, even when we started 0-3. We stuck to it and banded together. Every aspect of our team was working and that's what we're capable of when we all work together."
Fort Smith Northside versus Fort Smith Southside in Week 10 was for the longest time the most exciting rivalry in the 7A-West. That recognition now belongs to Bentonville and West, which fell 37-28 last year to the Tigers after starting 9-0 on the season.
That game went into the fourth quarter before Bentonville pulled out the victory. Bentonville won the rematch with defense, as championship teams often do. The Tigers took a 14-0 lead on and added a 43-yard field goal just before halftime to regain the momentum after a West touchdown.
Bentonville added two more touchdowns in the second half while holding the Wolverines scoreless.
"Our defense is amazing," Campbell said. "If we didn't have this defense, I don't know what would've happened tonight."
Both teams entered the game 6-0 in conference play and a parking attendant said the spaces around the stadium began filling up at 4:30 p.m. The students were active and creative again with one sign that read "2018, the year the Tigers went extinct" from the West side and another that read "You finally got your own stadium, but find your own town," from the Bentonville side.
That's a reference to the stadium in Centerton that opened this year. But would Centerton or Benton County Central have the same impact in the rivalry as Bentonville High vs. Bentonville West?
I don't think so. Let's keep it as is.
With the league championship decided, the question now becomes how well will Bentonville and Bentonville West respond in playoffs after first-round byes?
It's not easy to play at a high level following such an emotional game to end the regular season. Bentonville West ended the year with consecutive losses to Bentonville and Conway after a first-round bye in the playoffs. But Bentonville carried the momentum of its win over West into the state finals, where the Tigers were finally eliminated 44-37 by North Little Rock.
The Charging Wildcats are again No. 1 and the clear choice to repeat as state champions. But at least four teams from the West could make a deep run in the playoffs, including the two teams from Bentonville who again played before a packed crowd at Tiger Stadium.
The fun will continue next year at Bentonville West.
Sports on 11/03/2018
Print Headline: Tigers show again who's boss in Bentonville