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November 5, 2010In one of the most highly anticipated matchups in the state this season, the #1, 9-0 Bentonville Tigers travel south on Highway 540 to take on the #3, 8-1 Har-Ber Wildcats.
Last season, Bentonville dealt Har-Ber their only loss of the season in week ten, winning 17-0 at Bentonville.
QuarterbackWhen Bentonville lost three year starter Pearson Gean earlier in the season, some doubts arose as to whether or not that could be their possible downfall. Junior Dallas Hardison has answered those doubts, however, and has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the state this season with a completion percentage over 70% and multiple games with over 300 yards passing.
Wildcat quarterback Ryan Luther is a two year starter. This year, Luther's role in the offense has increased as the Wildcats have thrown the ball more than they did last year. Luther has thrown for 2,250 yards this season and has a 28-3 touchdown to interception ratio. He also has the ability to hurt a defense with his legs, leading the Wildcats in rushing touchdowns.
Running BacksBentonville entered the season with the plan to feature two sophomore running backs and it has pay dividends so far. Tearis Wallace has been absolutely stellar this season, shredding almost any defense he has faced and going for 280 yards earlier in the season in the victory over Fayetteville. Garrett Kaufmann works primarily as a short yardage and goal line back and has been very proficient.
Gordon Welch is Har-Ber's feature back and has 739 yards rushing this season with 4 touchdowns. Sophomore Tucker Lee also sees playing time and has average 8.8 yards a carry this season, finding the end zone 7 times. Ask any Har-Ber coach about fullback Jeremy Vongvone and they will call him one of the most unsung players in the conference. The senior is a very good blocker and very lethal catching passes, with 20 catches and 5 touchdowns on the year.
Wide ReceiversThe Tigers have three very good receivers in Drew Edwards, Austin Molitor, and Desmond Smith. Edwards primarily aligns in the slot and has breakaway speed while Molitor uses his height (6'5'') to excel on deep balls. Smith is more of an all around receiver and is having a breakout junior season. Tight end Tyler McGarrah provides the Tigers with another big bodied receiver.
Against anyone else in the state, the Tigers would be in a class of their own at the receiver position. Against Har-Ber though, the Tigers find a match. Har-Ber has the largest group of receivers in the state with 6'4'' Michael Fine leading the way. The junior has caught 27 passes this season for 9 touchdowns and averaged an amazing 28 yards per catch. Junior Evan Johnson has caught 19 passes this year this year for 4 touchdowns and is dangerous after the catch. Senior Brett Stith is another deep threat for the Wildcats, averaging almost 28 yards per catch. Senior Shawn Sayarinh provides the Wildcats a lethal screen game.
Offensive LineThe Tigers offensive line is anchored by senior Marcus Dannenhaur, a three year starter and Razorback commit. Senior Emerson DePeel is a college prospect and has been very good so far this season. Senior Chris Resendez and Al Whiting also start.
The Wildcat is anchored by a Razorback commit as well with Brey Cook dominating people all year long at his right tackle spot. Three year starter Daniel Garcia starts at left tackle and is very fundamentally sound. Seniors Sam Engel and James Johnson start at guard while Chris Wooden sees significant playing time. Trevor Woodard starts at center.
Bentonville plays a host of lineman and lead by senior nose guard Chase Gogel, one of the best defensive linemen in the conference. DePeel sees action in the interior and Scott Vargas rotates in. Omar Fraire provides a speed rush off the edge and seniors Sean Miller and Jeremy Soldate see playing time, as well as a host of sophomores.
The Wildcat defensive line is anchored by senior Paco Deluna, who is gap plugging nose guard. End Granger Riggins has five sacks on the season while Les Harrison is very good in run support. Senior Forrest Deleeuw also sees playing time.
LinebackersThe Tigers are led by junior Chris Scroggins at outside linebacker. The junior excels at tackling in space. Senior Morgan Harris sees time at both outside and inside linebacker while junior Chris McKane anchors the middle. DeMarcus Murphy starts at the other outside linebacker position and has had a breakout junior season.
The Wildcats are led by three senior linebackers, Hunter Kissinger, Preston Cash, and Matt Davis. Kissinger is a college prospect and has great size, while Cash excels in pass rushing. Davis leads the team in tackles with over 9 a game. Junior James Kearney is the fourth starter.
Bentonville has the best cover corner in the conference in senior Dakota Baggett. Seniors Ryan Ward and Daulton Terry play at the other cornerback position. Senior Dallas Coleman starts at one safety spot while junior John Hembry plays at the other safety spot.
The one consistency in the Wildcat secondary this season has been the play of safety Drew Lawson. The safety averages over 7 tackles a game. A host of players play at the other safety spot, including junior Preston Pianalto, Will McKay, and Luke Hansen. Seniors Riley Gibson and Ryan Miller start at cornerback, while Evan Johnson sees extensive playing time.
Special TeamsSenior kicker Chad Levin consistently puts the ball in the end zone and is accurate within 35 yards. Austin Molitor averaged almost 43 yards a punt last season. Drew Edwards is a very dangerous kick returner.
Junior Melvin Gonzalez kicks and punts and has one field goal on the season. Ryan Luther also punts some. The Wildcats have two dangerous kick returners in Shawn Sayarinh and Branden Jensen.
PredictionOn paper, it appears to be a very even match up. Two very explosive offenses and decent defenses led by players who know what it takes to win a state championship. Home field though, belongs to the Wildcats and I think they will come out ahead and earn the 1 seed for the playoffs.
Brandon's Projected Score: Har-Ber 42 Bentonville 39
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