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Football: Bryant earns respect for central Arkansas teams

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Photographs by Andy Shupe

Fayetteville running back Jackson White (center left) is tackled by a group of Bryant defenders Friday in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- So, what's better than defeating your rival in front of 32,000 fans at War Memorial Stadium?

How about beating the defending state champions on their home field?

That's what Bryant did at Harmon Field on Friday, winning 38-37 after Fayetteville failed on a two-point conversion. It was another big win in Northwest Arkansas for the Hornets, who went to Springdale last year after eliminated Har-Ber in the semifinals of the Class 7A state playoffs.

The two wins have earned some respect for central Arkansas teams who haven't won a championship in the state's largest classification since 2004.

"Without a doubt, Fayetteville has had the best program in the state of Arkansas in the last eight years," Bryant coach Buck James said. "For us to come up here and knock them off speaks volumes for our program and where it's headed."

TEMPORARY SETBACKS

Fayetteville lost at least one home game in each of the past three seasons and still managed to reach the championship game in Class 7A.

Bentonville won 24-21 in the 7A-West Conference opener last year at Harmon Field. The Bulldogs answered with nine consecutive victories, including a 53-19 win over North Little Rock in the championship game at War Memorial Stadium.

Fayetteville again lost to Bentonville at home in 2015 before beating the Tigers in the playoffs and claiming the 7A state title with a 28-7 victory over Springdale Har-Ber. In 2014, Fayetteville lost 24-21 to Bentonville in the championship game after losing 27-24 at home to Fort Smith Northside to begin conference play.

DEFENSIVE STOPS

Bryant could have won by a larger margin if not for some standout plays by the Fayetteville defense, especially in the first half.

Will Litzinger returned an interception for a touchdown after Bryant scored on its opening possession. Sophomore Redarion Cobbs then split two players and blocked a punt to set up Fayetteville's second touchdown.

Fayetteville's defense stopped Latavion Scott on fourth down late in the second half to maintain its halftime lead. Frank Morgan intercepted a pass in the Fayetteville end zone in the third to stop a potential scoring drive by Bryant.

POOR START

Fayetteville got off to a poor start when its opening kickoff went on of bounds.

The penalty set Bryant up at its 35 instead of the 20 had the kick went into the end zone. The Hornets then went 65 yards to take a 7-0 lead.

DOUBLE DIPPING

Alan Jett and his father-in-law, Harold Shreve, turned the long drive from Bryant to Fayetteville a 2-for-1 trip.

The two watched the Bryant vs. Fayetteville game where Alan's son, Brandon, is a wide receiver for the Hornets. The men planed to stay overnight in a hotel in Fayetteville and attend today's non-conference game between Arkansas and Texas Christian at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"We left about 12:30 (Friday) and we should get home about 11 or 12 o'clock (tonight)," Shreve said.

Not unexpectedly, the two Bryant supporters predicted wins for Bryant and the Razorbacks. "Bryant by at least two touchdowns," Jett said.

Jett didn't get the margin correct, but Bryant beat Fayetteville in overtime in an upset.

And today's game?

"Hogs by seven," Shreve said.

We'll see.

PLAY OF THE GAME

Randy Thomas took a short pass and dragged at least two Fayetteville defenders into the end zone to enable Bryant to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Scott provided balance to the Bryant offense by rushing for more than 120 yards.

ONSIDE KICKS

Will Litzinger laid a hard hit on Scott that knocked his helmet off. By rule, Scott had to sit out a play before returning to the field. ... Former Fayetteville coach and Bryant quarterback Daryl Patton is in his second year as coach of Class 4A Bauxite. The Miners lost their season-opener 13-6 to Benton Harmony Grove after going 0-10 last season. ... Bryant coach Buck James previously coached at Camden Fairview, where he led the Cardinals to seven conference championships and a state title with a 28-10 win over Batesville in 2012.

Sports on 09/09/2017

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