Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com
Fayetteville may or may not be the best team in the state at this point in time, but there is no doubt the Bulldogs are one of the most dangerous teams.
Fayetteville (6-0, 3-0) vs. Rogers (4-2, 1-2)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18
Location: Harmon Stadium, Fayetteville
Leave Fayetteville a crack and the Bulldogs are likely to squeeze through it and beat you. If you don’t believe it, just ask Rogers Heritage.
For three quarters of football last Friday, the War Eagles executed a fine game plan almost spotlessly, keeping the ball away from the Bulldogs and grinding their way to a 24-14 lead after three quarters. It appeared as though they had Fayetteville beat up and worn down going into the fourth quarter.
The War Eagles had blanked Fayetteville in the third quarter and forged ahead with two touchdowns on their own. Heritage had its foot on Fayetteville’s neck, ready to finish the Bulldogs off in the final frame. At least it looked that way.
But Fayetteville wouldn’t go that easily. The Bulldogs weren’t just going to fade away. If Heritage were going to win, the War Eagles would have to win all four quarters.
Fayetteville went to work in the final frame and blitzed down the field with its characteristic big-play style for a 63-yard drive. Quarterback Mitch Marshall, who is having a fine senior season, expertly delivered the ball to Bulldog playmakers Jordan Dennis, Terrell Tyson and C.J. O’Grady to pull within 24-17 in short order.
Fayetteville overcame two penalties in the drive, allowing nothing to keep the Bulldogs from getting back in the game.
But Heritage wasn’t about to wilt either. Quarterback Josh Qualls and tailback Brandon Gates are two of the best players in the league, and after losing a heartbreaker to Springdale Har-Ber the week before, they and their teammates were determined to defend Gates Stadium.
Heritage failed to score a touchdown, but they burned time off the clock and drove for a 45-yard field goal, which Eric Grom booted against a stiff wind for a 27-24 lead with 2:09 to play.
The final two minutes would decide the game.
Though the stands weren’t full, there was quite a bit of nervous energy in the stadium. Had the game been a boxing match, Heritage would have been leading on points going into the final round. The War Eagles had technically played the better game, but Fayetteville had absorbed it all and was looking for their chance to land a knockout punch.
As much excitement as their was in the stands, there seemed to be more on the Fayetteville sideline. The same couldn’t be said for the War Eagles. They appeared more apprehensive, and in hindsight the team’s respective postures were appropriate.
Remember that crack mentioned earlier. Heritage left it open when the kickoff following its 45-yard field goal failed to reach the end zone. And Fayetteville delivered its knockout blow.
Unfortunately for the War Eagles, the kickoff plummeted into the hands of perhaps the last person in the stadium Heritage coach Perry Escalante wanted.
No. 1 on Fayetteville’s roster is junior defensive back Dre Greenlaw. It is in no way ironic that his coaches and teammates refer to him as “Big Play Dre.”
In the five previous games this season, Greenlaw had scored three non-offensive touchdowns by returning a punt 91 yards against Warren, an interception 68 yards against Jefferson City, Mo., and a fumble 76 yards against Springdale.
Again, the last place Heritage wanted the ball was in Greenlaw’s hands, but it wound up there. The gifted athlete made the most of his teammates finely executed blocking scheme to race 92-yards for a touchdown and the 28-27 lead with Cal Conway’s PAT. The Bulldogs’ defense held Heritage, and Fayetteville moved to 6-0.
The resiliency Fayetteville showed in that comeback victory doesn’t just materialize out of nothing. A winning attitude is developed in the weight room and on the running track, in spring drills and seven-on-seven camps and during those sweltering preseason practices when other kids are still asleep or playing video games or out with their girlfriends.
A winning attitude can be bequeathed by the tradition forged by previous classes. Winning back-to-back state titles the two previous seasons hasn’t hurt this current batch of Bulldogs.
As Fayetteville head coach Darryl Patton recently said about his young and relatively inexperienced team, “All they know here at Fayetteville is winning.”
And truthfully, nothing fosters winning more than winning. Winning is a habit like anything else, and so far, that habit has served the Bulldogs this season.
7A/6A-West Conference Standings
Overall – Conference
Fayetteville – 6-0, 3-0
Bentonville – 4-2, 3-0
Har-Ber – 4-2, 2-1
Springdale – 4-2, 2-1
Rogers – 4-2, 1-2
Heritage – 3-3, 1-2
Siloam Springs – 1-4-1, 0-3
Van Buren – 1-5, 0-3
2013 FHS Football Schedule
Sept. 2 – Fayetteville 35, Warren 21 at Razorback Stadium
Sept. 13 – Fayetteville 34, Jeff City 24
Sept. 20 – Fayetteville 27, Muskogee 22 at Muskogee
Sept. 27 – Fayetteville 45, Van Buren 21 at Van Buren
Oct. 4 – Fayetteville 38, Springdale 14
Oct. 11 – Fayetteville 28, Heritage 27
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 – Bentonville, 7:30 p.m.