VAN BUREN -- The Van Buren Pointers are headed back to the playoffs and coach Casey Dick says senior Christian Morrow has played a vital role.
"He does a good job leading our team and putting us in good situations," Dick said. "His mobility is what makes him. He's a threat to run the ball and he can throw it.
"But the best thing about him is he's coachable and wants to learn. He's improved his fundamentals. He's our hardest worker and setting an example for everyone."
He has 1,467 passing yards, while completing 56 percent of his passes (130 of 236). Morrow has also run for 440 yards, not to mention 121 more receiving. All told, he's accounted for 14 touchdowns, including eight passing, four rushing and two receiving. All that has come despite missing all or parts of three games with an ankle injury, too.
The Pointers (4-6) are the No. 5 seed from the 7A-West, but won't have to travel far to take on Fort Smith Northside (6-4), the No. 4 from the 7A-Central today at Mayo-Thompson Stadium.
Morrow, who missed a big chunk of last season with a broken collarbone, has worked hard to improve his passing to become more of a dual-threat quarterback, which has made life difficult for the Pointers' opponents. Morrow credits Dick, a former quarterback at Arkansas, with helping him.
Those dual-threat skills came to the forefront in a couple of Van Buren's biggest wins this season. He engineered a huge drive to retake the lead on the road against Rogers High that ultimately led to a pivotal conference win.
Morrow had a 23-yard option keeper and also a 24-yard pass completion on that drive. He also moved to receiver and had two touchdown catches in the Pointers' opening-week win against Alma.
His face lights up immediately when asked about his coach, who is in his first season at Van Buren.
"This year it's more RPOs -- run-pass option -- where last year it was more grind it out," Morrow said. "This year it's more fast tempo that matches my abilities. But he's taught me a lot mechanics-wise throwing the ball, a lot of drills I've never done before. I've been able to transition that to games, using what he's showed me."
Dick has also taught Morrow how to be more of a leader.
"Last year I kind of just followed other people," Morrow said. "This year he's brought more vocal out of me. He's taught me how to be a leader and be vocal on the field."
Dick said some of that has come with more success, which also breeds confidence.
"It's awesome to visualize where he was in May and where he is now," Dick said. "In the spring, he was not as accurate as we'd like for him to be. I've told him 'you're light years from where you were in May as far as his consistency.'"
Morrow is drawing some college interest as an athlete, Dick said. And he's confident the senior can succeed at the next level whether it be at quarterback or receiver.
"I said if he had played receiver all the time, he'd have a highlight reel," Dick said. "But he's done whatever we've asked of him to help our team succeed."
Wolverines must replace receiver
Bentonville West must use part of its bye week to find a new starting receiver.
The Wolverines (6-4) will go through the Class 7A state playoffs without the services of sophomore Stephen Dyson, who suffered a foot injury during the second quarter of last week's game against Bentonville High. Dyson was West's second-leading receiver, having caught 34 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns.
"That's a huge blow for us and to a player who really came on," West coach Bryan Pratt said. "As a sophomore, he's started every game in a 7A program. That's pretty good. It's good for him and good for the future."
Pratt said he expects a number of players will be used to fill Dyson's void. That will include junior linebacker Jonas Higson, who played that position some last year. Meanwhile, senior tailback Tyrese Smallwood also left the game with a possible concussion after taking a hit in the first quarter, but Pratt expects him to be back in time for next week's game.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines continue to look for the school's first playoff victory as they await the winner of this week's game between Rogers High and Conway to see who they will host in next week's quarterfinal game.
"We're looking at this bye much like we did when we had the open date after playing Bryant," Pratt said. "We have a week where we will have a chance to recover and refocus.
"After a very disappointing way that we played last week, we want to come into the playoffs and know that these games matter. If you get beat now you go home, and we're still trying to do some firsts. We're trying to win our first home playoff game, even though we've played two home playoff games. This one, though, will be the first in our stadium."
-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
Hahn making plays on offense
Rogers High coach Mike Loyd said he decided to move junior Nathan Hahn from defense to offense three weeks ago and it's turned out great for the Mounties.
Hahn (6-foot, 195 pounds) rushed for 174 yards on only 16 carries to help Rogers (2-7) knock off crosstown rival Rogers Heritage last week and earned an unexpected playoff berth as the No. 6 seed from the 7A-West.
Loyd was notified shortly before kickoff that Springdale Har-Ber would be self-reporting use of an ineligible payer, which opened the door for a playoff berth.
"I never mentioned it to them about any of that before," Loyd said. "But the kids knew what was at stake. Social media being social media. But like I said before we do things right for the right reasons and we found a way in."
Hahn has come up big the last two weeks since moving to offense, totaling more than 300 yards rushing combined.
"He's done a good job and some guys have done the job in front of him, too," Loyd said. "He's a competitor and a smart kid, who knows blocking assignments. He's not the quickest, but he's patient and reads blocks well."
Junior Sammy Zammaron has a team-high 691 yards, but has been banged up the past couple of week, Loyd said. However, he could return this week for the Mounties' playoff game at Conway, the No. 3 seed from the 7A-Central, and give Loyd different options in the backfield.
"Sammy is the type if he gets a crease, he could go," Loyd said. "That could give us a good little combo."
Junior quarterback Hunter Loyd threw for two touchdowns and ran for two. combining for almost 300 yards of offense (223 passing, 74 rushing) in the 33-14 win over Heritage. He's thrown for 1,485 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season and ran for 256 more to go with eight TDs.
-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Bye week becomes normal for Tigers
It's become a November ritual for Bentonville High's football team.
At a certain point during practice this week, a player leaves the practice field and goes into the press box at Tiger Stadium, where he flips on the lights so the Tigers can continue their routine that day.
"It's fun because it gives the end of our practices that Friday night feel," Bentonville coach Jody Grant said. "It's also a reminder to our players that it's playoff time, so we have a little fun with that."
Bentonville (7-3) is also in a very familiar position as postseason play begins. This will be the 10th time since the current playoff format was utilized in 2008 that the Tigers will enjoy a first-round bye as Bentonville awaits the winner of the Van Buren-Fort Smith Northside game.
Both teams will get equal attention this week, Grant said.
"We'll try to make one day where we just focus on Van Buren, then use another day to focus on Northside," Grant said. "You don't want to guess who you think might you might play. You could be wrong, and that has happened before. A lot of time this week, though, we'll just focus on ourselves and work on some fundamentals.
"The bye week is a fun time and a nice reward for some of those players, especially those that have been banged up over the past few weeks. We'll give those players a day or two of rest."
Grant said his team left last week's 31-7 win over Bentonville West and enters the state playoffs in good health. Some players may still have minor ankle issues, but the Tigers didn't suffer anything more than a few bumps and bruises.
-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
Bulldogs focus on Catholic RB
Fayetteville coach Billy Dawson knows the key to beating Little Rock Catholic is to stop senior running back Sammy Johnson from running wild.
The Rockets (5-5) squeaked into the playoffs after beating Little Rock Central behind Johnson, who rushed for 212 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 72, 17, and 5 yards. The victory earned Little Rock Catholic a first-round playoff game on Friday against Fayetteville at Harmon Field.
"Sammy Johnson is an all-state tailback and a college prospect with a bunch of offers," Dawson said. "He has an extra gear and he can really run. He's their guy, so it'll be interesting to see if we can get him on the ground."
Fayetteville (8-2) missed out on a first-round bye after losses to Bentonville West and Bentonville High. But the Bulldogs appear primed for a playoff run with the return of senior quarterback Darius Bowers, who missed three games earlier in the year because of a knee injury."
"We're healthy right now, so I don't mind playing," Dawson said. "I like the way our kids are playing and working hard at practice every day."
Bowers completed 20 of 29 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns last week when Fayetteville defeated Springdale Har-Ber 42-14 to clinch the No. 3 seed from the 7A-West. Dawson will keep his team focused on Little Rock Central Friday instead of peeking ahead to a possible second-round game with Bryant. Fayetteville beat Bryant 36-35 in a non-conference game on Sept. 14.
"We're playing well in all three phases," Dawson said. "Every week we play, our kids become more comfortable."
-- Rick Fires • @NWARick
Mavericks travel to Springdale for playoffs
After tough loss to Northside last week, Fort Smith Southside now has to look ahead with a 7A first-round playoff game on the road.
The Mavericks (5-5) travel to Washington County to face Springdale (7-3), which is hosting its first home playoff game since 2005.
The defense has been one area that Southside coach Jeff Williams has praised the second half of the season. Though Southside has allowed nearly 31 points per game, the defense has cut that to just under 20 points per game over the last three weeks.
"You can see the improvement they have made week to week," Williams said. "You can see how confident they are playing right now. They are flying to the football and tackling better."
But Williams knows that the Bulldogs have one of the better offenses in 7A as Zak Clark's team averages 32 points per game.
"I've told people that Zak has 21 points in his pocket every game before they step on the field," Williams said. "They have adapted after the season went along. When the quarterback went down, they moved to the running game. (Garrett Vaughan) is as good a running back as we have seen this year."
Vaughan has gained 1,079 yards and 15 touchdowns while missing two games. Last week Vaughan rushed for 207 yards on 37 carries and three touchdowns against Van Buren.
"He is a short, compact back that is really fast," Williams said of Vaughan. "Their offensive line has gotten better each week. Defensively, we got to identify what they are doing and get him on the ground when we hit him."
The winner travels to defending 7A champion North Little Rock for a Nov. 12 quarterfinal matchup.
-- Walter Woodie • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Grizzlies host Pointers in rematch
After beating its city rival last week, Fort Smith Northside plays one of its oldest rivals in Van Buren in the first round of the 7A playoffs.
The Grizzlies won the first meeting 46-21 at Blakemore Field in Van Buren on Sept. 7. Tonight it will be the Pointers (4-6) that have to travel across the Arkansas River into Sebastian County to face the Grizzlies (6-4).
"It's great to have a home game for the playoffs," Northside coach Mike Falluer said after Friday's 23-13 win over Southside. "There is no place I'd rather play than Mayo-Thompson Stadium."
After losing three straight 7A-West games, the Grizzlies had to beat the Mavericks last week to earn the 7A-Central's fourth seed and a home playoff game. Northside pulled it off thanks to a great effort by its defense, which allowed 93 total yards to Southside in the second half, 248 for the game.
"I thought our kids fought back (last week) after three hard weeks," Falluer said. "We played a lot better defensively in the second half. We got after them."
The Grizzlies offense is fueled by quarterback Derrick Wise, a dual-threat with his legs and his arm. Wise leads Northside in rushing with 803 yards and 11 touchdowns while throwing for 1,159 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Since 1919, Northside leads the all-time series 65-11-3.
The winner travels to 7A-West champion Bentonville for a Nov. 12 quarterfinal game.
-- Walter Woodie • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Red'Dogs ready to host playoff game
The Bulldogs accomplished two goals in their 35-24 win at Van Buren last week. Springdale assured itself of a seven-win season and secured a home playoff game for the first round, something the program has not done since the school split in 2006.
Coach Zak Clark said the win was something his team needed after dropping back-to-back games to Fayetteville and Bentonville.
"We just needed to get that feeling back," Clark said. "It was a relief. The kids have battled really hard and it was good to see them be rewarded."
Springdale trailed Van Buren for a lot of the game but rallied late. That has been the case for most of the season. In five of their six wins, the Bulldogs have trailed at halftime.
"I've never seen a team do that," Clark said. "I think that speaks for how hard we play. Our kids don't think they are ever out of it."
Springdale (7-3) hosts Fort Smith Southside (5-5) at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium.
Connor Hutchins started at quarterback last week at Van Buren and Will Mueller helped the team on its late surge. Clark did not name a starter for this week but said both quarterbacks would be ready.
-- Chip Souza • @NWAChip
Preps Sports on 11/09/2018
Print Headline: CLASS 7A FOOTBALL Morrow helps Pointers back to playoffs