Bulldogs gearing up for late-season push

Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com

The more a team wins, the bigger each game gets. That’s certainly the case for the Fayetteville Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs moved to 8-0 and 5-0 in the 7A-West last Friday with a 35-14 victory over the Siloam Springs Panthers in anticipation of one the conference’s most eagerly awaited matchups. This Friday the Bulldogs, who are 8-0 for the first time since 2003, travel to Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium in Springdale to face the Har-Ber Wildcats (5-3, 3-2).

Fayetteville (8-0, 5-0) vs. Har-Ber (5-3, 3-2)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1
Location: Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium, Springdale

The game is pivotal for Fayetteville’s post-season positioning. A victory would lock up one of the league’s two first-round byes in the playoffs and keep the Bulldogs in the hunt for the conference title with Bentonville (6-2, 5-0), which hosts Springdale this week and visits Fayetteville Nov. 8 for both squads’ regular-season finale.

Implications are just as meaningful for the Wildcats, who fell 59-42 last Friday to Rogers. A victory would keep a first-round bye in play for Har-Ber should Bentonville defeat Springdale and top Fayetteville on Nov. 8, giving the Wildcats a head-to-head advantage over the Bulldogs in case of a tie.

And then there is pride.

One concern every coach faces as the regular season winds down and the playoffs come into view is their teams’ legs. Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton and his staff have done an excellent job of having the Bulldogs playing their best when it means the most. The Bulldogs have won the last two state titles and three in the past five years. There was also a runner-up finish during that five-year period.

Patton said the Bulldogs will start trimming about 15 minutes off their normal two hour and 15 minute practices this week and next and then cut another 15 off when the playoffs begin to make sure the Bulldogs have enough rest to be at their best each week.

However, the Bulldogs will continue their weight training.

“We lift weights year around,” Patton said. “We don’t just lift to maintain in the fall, we’re lifting to get stronger. It helps out on injuries and just being a stronger football team. Instead of getting worn down, I think we’re stronger come playoff time.”

While the Bulldogs coaching staff will get their players off the practice field a bit quicker, Patton said the squad remains a work in progress.

“We want to get better in everything we do, each week,” Patton said last week. “We’re not a finished product on offense. We need to run the football better than we have been doing. We have to do a much better job of sticking with our blocks, blocking down field and following our blockers. We have to be more consistent.”

The Bulldogs displayed a more consistent running game against Siloam Spring last week with Brayden Cook gaining nearly 200 yards against the Panthers. Patton felt it was the offensive line’s best game blocking for the run.

Fayetteville has been tremendously effecting throwing the football, with senior quarterback Mitch Marshall throwing for 1,944 yards and 20 touchdowns with only two interceptions.

“In the passing game, we’ve done a good job of getting the ball to Jordan [Dennis] and C.J. [O’Grady], but we need to do a better job of getting our other receivers involved, whether that’s Jase Rapert, Ramsey Jones or Bruce Armstrong,” Patton said. “We have to concentrate on protecting the football. We’ve done a good job with that, but ball protection is always a concern.”

The past two weeks Fayetteville has forced seven turnovers, and Patton is proud of the strides the defense has made, but there continues to be room for improvement.

“Defensively, we’ve got to do a better job of taking away what the other team does best,” Patton said. “We can’t have a team running up and down the field. We’ve got to force teams to be one dimensional, and when a team does throw the ball, we have to be ready to break on it.”

Patton said he is proud of how much the Bulldogs have accomplished thus far this season, but he knows the team has much more that it can accomplish.

“I proud of this team and they effort they play with,” Patton said. “We just want to keep improving ourselves and keep on pushing to be the best team we can be.”

7A/6A West Standings

Fayetteville – 5-0, 8-0
Bentonville – 5-0, 6-2
Har-Ber – 3-2, 5-3
Springdale – 3-2, 5-3
Rogers – 2-3, 5-4
Heritage – 2-3, 4-4
Siloam Springs – 0-5, 1-6-1
Van Buren – 0-5, 1-7

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. 1 – Fayetteville 28, Heritage 27
Oct. 18 – Fayetteville 35, Rogers 14
Oct. 25 – Fayetteville 35, Siloam Springs 14
Nov. 1 – at Har-Ber, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 – Bentonville, 7:30 p.m.