Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com
Big-time players make big plays, and Friday night the biggest player on the field came up with the game’s biggest play when his team needed it most.
Nationally recruited defensive tackle Josh Frazier (6-4, 320 pounds) intercepted a screen pass on Fayetteville’s first overtime snap to secure a 34-31 victory for his Har-Ber Wildcats over the Fayetteville Bulldogs. Frazier, who has more than 20 scholarship offers, including one from Arkansas, also blocked a punt and had two sacks in the contest.
The loss ended the Bulldogs’ undefeated run through the season, dropping the Bulldogs to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in 7A-West play. Har-Ber (6-3, 4-2) assured itself of a playoff berth with the victory. Fayetteville has already clenched a playoff spot and will play Bentonville, who earned a 38-0 victor over Springdale Friday night, for a share of the conference title at Harmon Stadium on Nov. 8.
The game will be a memorable one for some time to come. Both squads had to rally back from deficits and both made a host of big plays before Frazier sealed the game for the Wildcats.
Har-Ber bolted out to a 24-3 lead thanks to the hard-nosed running of Sain Matthew, who had 189 rushing yards on 34 carries on the night, before the Bulldogs scored two touchdowns in the final 1:18 of the first half to draw with in 24-17 of the Wildcats at halftime.
Bulldog quarterback Mitch Marshall, who completed 18 of 34 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns, pulled the Bulldogs off the mat with back-to-back passes of 62 and 28 yards to C.J. O’Grady to pull Fayetteville within 24-10 with 1:18 left in the first half.
Less than a minute later, Marshall threw a 17-yard touchdown to O’Grady to capitalize on a fumble recovered by Bulldog linebacker Seth Finley. The collaboration sent Fayetteville to the locker room trailing just 24-17 at the half.
The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff of the second half and tied the game in short order when Marshall found O’Grady, who caught 7 passes for 160 yards and three TDs, open again in the end zone for an 8-yard TD reception with 7:38 to play in in the third quarter.
With the momentum, the Bulldogs took a 31-24 lead with 11:46 remaining in the game on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Marshall to Jordan Dennis. The big play on the drive was an excellently designed and executed hook and lateral pass from Marshall to Dennis who pitched to Braydon Cook that was good for 36 yards. Cook led the Bulldogs in rushing with 77 yards on 14 carries.
The Bulldogs seemed to have the game in control when junior safety Dre Greenlaw intercepted two Har-Ber passes in the fourth quarter, but both left the Bulldogs mired in the shadow of their own 10-yard line with the raucous Springdale band whooping and hollering from the east end zone.
Har-Ber got the ball back with 2:08 remaining in regulation and Wildcats’ quarterback Kyle Pianalto made several nice runs while driving his squad to the game-tying touchdown. Pianalto, who completed 13 of 21 passes for 201 yards, hit senior receiver Zach Vaughn for a 21-yard touchdown strike, tying the game at 31. Vaughn caught 7 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Har-Ber could not get into the end zone on their first possession of overtime, but Ben O’Brien’s 27-yard kick gave Har-Ber the lead, and Frazier’s interception sealed the deal.
Score By Quarters
HAR: Kyle Pianalto 13-yard pass to Camden Scott, (PAT good), 10:00.
FAY: Cal Conway 31-yard field goal, 6:48.
HAR: Sain Matthew 4-yard run, (PAT good), 2:02.
HAR: Ben O’Brien 27-yard field goal, 8:33.
HAR: Josh Vitt 14-yard run, (PAT good), 2:32
FAY: Mitch Marshall 28-yard pass to C.J. O’Grady, (PAT good), 1:18.
FAY: Mitch Marshall 17-yard pass to C.J. O’Grady, (PAT good), 00:39.
FAY: Mitch Marshall 8-yard pass to C.J. O’Grady, (PAT good), 7:38.
FAY: Mitch Marshall 5-yard pass to Jordan Dennis, (PAT good), 11:46.
HAR: Kyle Pianalto 21-yard pass to Zach Vaughn , (PAT good), 00:43.
HAR: Ben O’Brien 27-yard field goal.