Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com
Fayetteville head coach Daryl Patton generally wants his teams to take a businesslike approach to the game. He coaches his team to play with enthusiasm but to keep an even-keeled approach, not get too high and not get too low.
Not this week, though.
Patton wants his Purple Bulldogs to take Harmon Field at 7:30 p.m. Friday with reckless abandon against the Springdale Red Bulldogs in the annual Battle of the Bulldogs.
“This is one game where we want out kids to cut loose,” Patton said. “You can only reach that level a couple of times a year, maybe three, and this is one of them for us.”
Friday will be the 114th meeting of the Washington County rivals since the teams began playing in 1908. In the early days of the rivalry, the squads played twice a season.
The lore surrounding the series says that the cross-county rivals squared off on Nov. 8, 1921, for the right to retain the Bulldog as a mascot.
Almost poetically, the squads tied 7-7, which legend holds is the reason why both schools remain the Bulldogs to this day.
Nobody knows for sure if that story is true. If not, the story is so good it should be.
Springdale leads the series 64-38-13, but under Patton’s tenure as coach, Fayetteville has won seven of the last 10 meetings, giving the Purple Bulldogs their longest stretch of success in the series.
“When I was interviewing for this job, it was impressed upon me how big this ballgame is and how important it is for us to win it more often than not,” said Patton, who has won three state championships as the Purple Bulldogs head coach. “I’ve never forgotten that.”
Springdale head coach Shane Patrick echoed Patton’s sentiments.
Fayetteville (4-0, 1-0) vs. Springdale (3-1, 1-0)
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday Oct. 4, 2013
Location: Harmon Field
“It’s an important game for our team and the people of this city,” Patrick said. “It’s been a number of years since we’ve beaten them, and we would like to get on the other side of it. There is a lot of pride in our community, and everyone in our town wants us to win. There will always be a little bit extra to this game.”
What Patrick could not say that Patton would is that the Red Dogs are Fayetteville’s biggest rivalry. Since 2006 when Har-Ber High became Springdale’s second public school competing in football, the Wildcats have been Red Dogs’ biggest rival.
“That’s OK,” Patton said. “We understand that. It’s like Texas and Arkansas back in the old Southwest Conference. Texas always saw [Texas] A&M as a bigger rivalry than Arkansas, but we didn’t care. Texas was our No. 1 rival. That’s how we feel about Springdale.”
With both schools being in such close proximity, some Bulldogs have even changed colors. Fayetteville standout receiver Jordan Dennis started his career as a Red Bulldog as a sophomore, but last year in Fayetteville’s 27-11 victory, he caught five passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.
This time last year, Springdale starting quarterback Fuller Chandler was calling signals for Woodland Junior High in Fayetteville.
Fayetteville defensive linemen Chase and Cole Turnbull have a different story. They have grown up playing in Fayetteville, but their dad Dave Turnbull, who is the president of Fayetteville’s Booster Club, was a proud Red Bulldog for legendary Springdale coach Jarrell Williams during his playing days.
“My dad’s fully behind Fayetteville now,” Chase Turnbull said. “But I know he’s proud of playing for Springdale. It’s got to be a little tough on him.”
Bulldog senior center Jack Armstrong said he noticed a bit more intensity from the coaching staff this week and mentioned that Patton has asked former Bulldogs to speak to the team.
“[Arkansas starting quarterback] Brandon Allen and Drew Gorton came and talked about how big the game is and how it will be a memory we’ll never forget. So, yeah, we’re really excited and fired up.”
The Purple Bulldogs are expecting the game atmosphere to be electric.
“I think the stands will be full and it’ll be crazy exciting,” said junior tight end Brock Stockland. “They always are for the Springdale game, at least every one that I’ve been to since I was little.”
Battle of the Bulldog Legacies
More than a few of the current Bulldogs have fathers that participated the Battle of the Bulldogs themselves. Here are a few thoughts about the Bulldog legacy.
Senior offensive tackle Hayden Down — “Every time the Springdale game comes around, we always talk about it at home. It was a big game when my dad played and is a big game now.”
Senior center Jack Armstrong — “My dad has some old highlight tapes of when he played. There’s one from the Springdale game where he broke a long run on the left sideline. It’s just a big game that has a lot of meaning to us and to guys who played in the past.”
Junior tight end Brock Stockland — “It’s our biggest game before playoffs. I think it’ll be the most exciting game of the season. My dad doesn’t talk about when he played much, but during Springdale week, I think the memories come back to mind for everyone who was a part of it.”
Senior manager Jackson Woodruff — “It’s the most exciting week of the season because it’s the Battle of the Bulldogs. My dad played in it, and everyone who has been a part of the rivalry knows how big it is. I’ve got to keep my emotions in check and focus on my job to help the team.”
Junior offensive lineman Cooper Sone — “We’ve played them over 100 times, so it’s a big deal for any rivalry that goes back that long. This is the Battle of the Bulldogs. It’s where we just cut loose and give it everything we have.
Receiver Bruce Armstrong — “This is the one game my dad, everyone, talks about. It’s a big game. Plus, Springdale’s starting quarterback Fuller Chandler, he was the starting quarterback for us at Woodland last year before he transferred to Springdale during the middle of the year. Knowing him adds something to it.”