Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com
For eight weeks, the Fayetteville Bulldogs lived a dream season of sorts.
Whether it was a kickoff return for a touchdown to erase a deficit in the final minutes against Heritage, forcing two key turnovers late to put away Springdale or holding off a rally by Muskogee, Okla., week by week, game by game the Bulldogs found a way to win no matter the circumstances.
That all changed in overtime last Friday against the Har-Ber Wildcats. Fayetteville fought back from a 24-3 second-quarter deficit to take 31-24 lead in the second half, only to fall 34-31 in overtime.
Dream season over?
Not really, according to Ramsey Jones. The Fayetteville senior receiver said the loss was tough, but the Bulldogs remain undeterred form their ultimate goal — winning a third consecutive state title.
“After the game, we were bummed out and sad, but we’ve come back this week and are really working that much harder,” Jones said. “We’re working to smooth out the flaws and go out and play our best game this week against Bentonville and just execute.”
The Bulldogs (8-1, 5-1 7A/6A-West) play host to the league-leading Bentonville Tigers (7-2, 6-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Harmon Stadium. Though the Tigers have already secured a share of the conference title, the winner will take the league’s top seed and first-round bye in the playoffs based on head to head competition.
“I think the team grew last week as a team even though we lost,” Jones said. “We made a great comeback and almost won it, should have won it. Now, we have Bentonville in Week 10. We’d like to be undefeated, but we are playing for what we wanted to be playing for in this game, a conference championship and No. 1 seed.
“It would be cool to win this. It would be our first conference title. This is a huge game for us, but whether we win or lose, we want to improve before we go into the playoffs. Our ultimate goal is winning a state title and this game is part of that process.”
Fayetteville (8-1, 5-1) vs. Bentonville (7-2, 6-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8
Location: Harmon Stadium, Fayetteville
Jones’ work ethic and matter of fact thinking has earned the respect of his teammates and head coach, Daryl Patton. The soft-spoken Jones, who is president of the senior class at FHS and also in the choir, leads through his actions.
“Ramsey is a very dependable, hard-working young man,” Patton said. “He’s been on the team for three years, played a lot last year and is a starter for us this year. He’s going to be a success at whatever he does in life because of his work ethic and character.”
Jones, who plans on studying business next fall at the University of Arkansas, said the Bulldogs’ resiliency springs from the team’s experience, the program’s winning tradition and the bond between teammates.
“Our experience in playing in big games has really helped us,” Jones said. “We don’t get rattled. We have confidence in ourselves and in our teammates that we can win a game even if we get down like we did last week. We know how to handle that kind of pressure.”
Jones, who has caught 11 passes for 201 and two touchdowns this season, believes Fayetteville’s offense is built to take what the defense gives them.
“I think the strength of our offense is the diversity,” Jones said. “We can run the ball, we can run screens, and we can pass deep or throw across the middle. We’re just very diverse, which makes us difficult to stop.”
Jones said he’d like to see a big crowd at Harmon Stadium to support the Bulldogs’ efforts, but that the team will give great effort regardless.
“It would be great to have a big crowd out for this game, but either way, we’re playing for the guys that are around us,” Jones said. “We do represent the whole school and the city of Fayetteville, but when it gets down to it, it’s about the guy next to you and all the guys who have been working together to make this season happen.”
When asked how he would remember this regular season, Jones said that rising above expectations would stand out.
“The highlight for me has just been what we’ve accomplished this year,” Jones said. “After last year, I don’t think a lot was expected out of us. I think we’ve shown that a group of guys can come together and be a really good football team, even if we’re not the most talented group, and accomplish a lot. Here we are competing for the conference championship in the last game of the regular season. We did that by pulling together, working hard and not letting anything hold us back.”
7A/6A West Standings
Bentonville – 6-0, 7-2
Fayetteville – 5-1, 8-1
Har-Ber – 4-2, 6-3
Rogers – 3-3, 6-3
Heritage – 3-3, 5-4
Springdale – 3-3, 5-4
Siloam Springs – 0-6, 1-7-1
Van Buren – 0-6, 1-8
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 – Fayetteville 35, Rogers 14
Oct. 25 – Fayetteville 35, Siloam Springs 14
Nov. 1 – Har-Ber 34, Fayetteville 31, OT
Nov. 8 – Bentonville, 7:30 p.m.