BENTONVILLE -- The Bentonville defense was understandably a little ticked off this past week after giving up 55 points the previous week.
Kansas City Rockhurst paid the price for that Friday night.
The Tigers forced three Rockhurst turnovers including a huge momentum-boosting interception in the third quarter and rolled to a 35-7 nonconference win in Tiger Stadium. Bentonville played all three nonconference games at home.
"I thought the defense came out and set the tone really well," said junior Nick Stone, who had a key interception and led a swarming attack that brought pressure on Rockhurst quarterback Ethan Hansen the entire game. "We got a couple of picks and that really put us in position for our offense to step up and they played great."
Bentonville (2-1) heads into its bye week riding the momentum of the win. The Tigers led 35-0 before Rockhurst (0-3) had a late scoring drive against Bentonville's reserves.
"Obviously we'd like to be 3-0 but the truth is this ... the nonconference doesn't matter," said Bentonville Coach Jody Grant. "So what we tell our kids is the nonconference is about getting experience and getting better in preparation for conference play. And I feel like we've done that. We still are having too many penalties and we had some turnovers, but that is all fixable and we'll continue to address it.
We'll use this bye week to give our kids a little bit of rest, but refocus on fundamentals and some things and be ready to go."
While the defense was playing lights out, the Tigers seized control of the game with four explosive plays. Bentonville ran just 14 plays in the second half, and one of these was a snap in victory formation to run out the clock.
Junior running back Josh Ficklin had two of the four big scoring plays for the Tigers. The first came on Bentonville's second possession when he ripped off a 61-yard touchdown, breaking several tackles near the line of scrimmage and outracing the Hawklets for the score. He later added a 71-yard scoring run and finished the night with 192 yards on just 9 carries.
"I just didn't want to get caught," Ficklin said of the two long runs. "I knew if I got caught I was going to get taken out and someone else was going to get to score, so I said I have to make my own chance. I wanted to get in the end zone."
Ficklin's first run gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead and later Bentonville went up 14-0 when quarterback Drew Wright hit CJ Brown on a 33-yard slant, one of two touchdown passes on the night for Wright. The second one was a beauty that went for 91 yards to Chas Nimrod, who got behind the Rockhurst defense and caught Wright's pass in stride, then outran the Hawklets' defense for the score and a 21-0 halftime lead.
The game still hung in the balance in the third quarter when Rockhurst linebacker Conner Sexton intercepted a Wright pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, giving the Hawklets the ball at the Bentonville 38.
Rockhurst picked up 15 yards on first down when the Tigers were flagged for pass interference. After reaching the Bentonville 11, Rockhurst was penalized for holding that negated a touchdown pass. Two plays later, the Tigers came up with the defensive play of the game when Luke Adams intercepted a Hansen pass at the goal line to end Rockhurst's drive. Hansen was under intense pressure before getting the pass off.
"We stepped up and made some big plays tonight like that Luke Adams interception down there late," said Grant. "They ran a trick play, a little toss pass and I thought our defense handled that. Those are things that show we are growing and maturing as a unit defensively."
The Tigers will open 7A-West Conference action in two weeks at Springdale Har-Ber.