Bragging Rights: Defending state champion Bulldogs clash with Missouri powerhouse

Daryl Patton’s defending Class 7A state champions opened their season 11 days ago on Sept. 2 in the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Bulldogs (1-0) topped Warren 35-21 but have been eagerly awaiting another opponent ever since.

“It’s like a bye [open date] after the first game for a college team,” Patton said. “It stinks. It hurt me last Friday and hurt everybody on our team that almost every team in the state was out playing games, and we had a practice. We are glad to be back in game-week mode and are excited about Friday.”

While the Bulldogs were waiting, the Jays were playing. Jefferson City moved to 2-0 on the season with a come-from behind 22-14 victory over Belleville (Mo.) East. Like Fayetteville, Jeff City is a program that expects to win but returns an inexperienced squad. However, after watching video of the Jay’s preseason scrimmage and first two games, Patton said Jeff City is maturing quickly. What was raw is becoming ripe.

Fayetteville (1-0)
vs. Jeff. City Mo. (2-0)

Date: Friday, Sept. 13, 2013
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Harmon Field, Fayetteville

Fayetteville’s contest tonight against the Jefferson City (Mo.) Jays will almost be like a second season opener for the Bulldogs.”They are a different team than they were on that first tape,” Patton said. “It’s going to be a huge challenge for our kids. We are going to have to play really well to beat them. But that’s the kind of game we’ve always had with them.”

The Jays defeated a highly ranked but banged up Bulldog squad, 39-29, last season at Jefferson City, but in 2008 Fayetteville stunned a strong Jays squad when sophomore Brandon Allen, now starting for the Arkansas Razorbacks, quarterbacked the Bulldogs to a rousing victory.

“Being the favorite or the team that ought to win in the expert’s eyes doesn’t mean a thing in this series,” Patton said. “We better go out to play our best because we know that’s what we are going to get from Jeff City.”

Patton said the Jays resemble the Oregon Ducks on offense by spreading the field and running the option to put their best athletes in space to make plays.

“I would call their offense multiple,” Patton said. “They run a lot of spread out of the gun, with speed sweeps and quarterback powers. But then they are also going to run the Veer from under center. That’s where Coach LaPage cut his teeth. That’s what he knows best. It’s a two-headed monster. You have the Veer from under center and a lot of option from the shotgun.”

Quarterback Gabe Marcantonio makes the Jays’ offense go. He threw for two touchdowns and rushed for 76 yards against Belleville. Elijah Pittman rushed for 125 yards and kicker J.T. Bohlken added two field goals for the Jays.

In his first start, Fayetteville quarterback Mitch Marshall looked sharp, completing 14 of 18 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns behind an all-new cast on the offensive line. C.J. O’Grady caught five of those passes — two for touchdowns — for 104 yards receiving. Brayden Cook led the Bulldogs in rushing with 117 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, while Terrell Tyson added 63 yards on the ground with 16 carries.

Though the series with Jeff City, a Missouri high school powerhouse located 261 miles to the northeast, has been competitive, Patton, whose Bulldogs travel to Muskogee, Okla., next Friday, would rather fill his schedule with teams located a bit closer to home.

“I would rather not play a team like Jeff City in the preseason. I’d much rather play smaller schools where we could just win handily,” Patton said while smiling. “No, it’s good for our kids to play top-notch competition, not just from our state but regionally.

“Over the last three or four years, it has been difficult for us to schedule games with in-state schools, so we are having to go out-of-state to fill our nonconference schedule, and it’s fun. Like I told our kids, it’s not just Fayetteville vs. Jeff City, but it’s Arkansas vs. Missouri. It’s for bragging rights.”

2013 FHS Football Schedule

Sept. 2 – Fayetteville 35, Warren 21
Sept. 13 – Jefferson City (Mo.), 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 – at Muskogee (Okla.), 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 – at Van Buren, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 Springdale, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 – at Rogers Heritage, 7:30. p.m.
Oct. 18 – Rogers, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 – at Siloam Springs, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 – at Har-Ber, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 – at Bentonville, 7:30 p.m.