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Football: Talented Loudermilk at home in Tigers' secondary

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BENTONVILLE -- Bentonville High coach Jody Grant could see the raw talent Jadyn Loudermilk possessed and wanted to put it to good use in more ways than one.

The senior gave it a try, but he was quick to realize he was right at home in the Tigers' defensive backfield. He will be manning one of the cornerback positions this afternoon when Bentonville takes on North Little Rock in the Class 7A State Championship at War Memorial Stadium.

At a glance

Jadyn Loudermilk

SCHOOL Bentonville High

CLASS Senior

POSITION Cornerback

HEIGHT 6-0

WEIGHT 175

NOTABLE Played some as a receiver as a sophomore before he became a two-year starter at his current position. … Main role is to defend against opposing team’s best receiver. … Recorded double-digit tackles in a playoff game against run-oriented Cabot, which caused him to play a little out of his normal position. … His father, Hubert, was a receiver at Arkansas from 1995-98.

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Today’s Matchup

Class 7A State Championsip

North Little Rock vs. Bentonville High

War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

KICKOFF Noon

RECORDS North Little Rock 12-0; Bentonville 10-2

ON THE AIR bentonvillesportsnetwork.com livestream and KNWA-TV.

BETWEEN THE LINES It’s the seventh meeting between the two schools since 2001. North Little Rock won the first meeting (24-14 in 2006), but Bentonville won the last five, including a 28-21 decision in 2015. … North Little Rock is making its second appearance in the title game after losing last year’s game to Fayetteville. … QB David Chapple has accounted for 34 of the Charging Wildcats’ touchdowns this season (17 rushing, 17 passing). … RB Brandon Thomas is North Little Rock’s leading rusher with 1,380 yards and 11 touchdowns on 184 carries, while WR Deontae Montgomery had 32 receptions for 533 yards and eight scores. … This will be the fourth straight time Bentonville has been in the state championship game when it’s played during the afternooon. … The Tigers are 5-2 in Class 7A title games, including back-to-back championships in 2013-14. … Because of the way the state playoff bracket was constructed, Bentonville will serve as the home team. … Senior QB Nathan Lyons enters the game with 2,431 yards and 27 touchdowns on 162-of-251 passing. His leading target is Kam’Ron Mays-Hunt, who has 66 receptions for 1,085 yards and 13 scores.

PLAYERS TO WATCH North Little Rock — QB David Chapple (Sr., 5-10, 150), RB Brandon Thomas (So, 5-11, 181), WR Deontae Montgomery (Sr., 5-7, 145), DT Zavion Moore (Sr., 6-2, 250), PK Savana Melton (Sr., 5-11, 160). Bentonville — WR Kam’Ron Mays-Hunt (Sr., 6-1, 170), TE Tyler Johnson (Sr., 6-1, 200); QB Nathan Lyons (Sr., 5-10, 175), DL Angel Guerrero (Sr., 5-9, 250); DB Jadyn Loudermilk (Sr., 6-0, 175).

HOOTEN’S RANKINGS North Little Rock is No. 1 in Class 7A. Bentonville is No. 2.

HOOTEN’S LINE North Little Rock by 6.

OUR TAKE Bentonville 34, North Little Rock 24.

— HENRY APPLE • @NWAHenry

"I like playing on the offensive side," Loudermilk said. "It's like a change of pace for me, but honestly I love playing defense. The defensive unit we have is so close -- like friends and brothers -- so being away from them is a little off. I love defense more than anything."

Loudermilk (6-0, 175), a two-year starter at cornerback, has watched the Tigers miss out on trips to the championship game the past two seasons. He felt particularly responsible for Bentonville being eliminated in last year's semifinal game, saying he was too worried about taking care of other people's business instead of working on improving his role.

That wasn't going to be the case this year. Loudermilk not only took on a leadership role, but he worked harder in becoming the cornerback that clamped down on receivers and kept opposing teams from throwing his direction most of the time.

"He's a good cover corner and does some good things, so his value became significant to us on the defensive side," Grant said. "And the other coaches know who Jadyn Loudermilk is. They know he's a good player, and they know if you go at him, you're going to be challenged.

"He's had a good season, and I think he's one of the top corners in the conference, for sure, and I would say he's one of the top five in the state."

It's no secret that Loudermilk's duty has become covering the opposing team's best receiver, but sometimes he's had to do things a little differently. One such instance was when Bentonville played Cabot in the state playoffs two weeks ago, and the Panthers' dead-T offense meant very little pass coverage for Loudermilk.

He made up for it by playing up in almost a linebacker role, and he wound up with double-digit tackles that night.

"The first time playing in the box was a little different for me," Loudermilk said. "I had never played in the box before, but I still have a role. Being a leader, you have to be able to understand that role and execute what coaches tell you to do. I felt like in that game, I got my time to shine and execute."

Grant, meanwhile, was left just to wonder what it would have been like to have Loudermilk on offense and what role he could have played there.

"He's just a kid that, athletically, he's very gifted," Grant said. "We toyed around with him at receiver because he was just a deep-ball threat and catches the ball so well. But he's so valuable to us on defense, so we had to be careful.

"There were select games where he had packages for him and tried to get the deep ball to him a few times. Defenses, though, are smart. If you only put a guy out there every third game for just a play or two, there's a reason for that. They sniff that stuff out pretty good."

Sports on 12/02/2017

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