Whenever Har-Ber and Bentonville meet in football it's late in the year and a conference title is usually on the line. This year that won't happen because these two meet in the first conference game. It's now a complete change of mentality. They go from playing for a championship straight up to playing to see who's in the driver’s seat.
“Really since we've been here we've been playing them week 10 and there's been a lot at stake when we meet them in week 10,” said head coach Chris Wood. “Usually we’re sharing a conference or an outright conference championship. Now we're on the front end playing.”
Something like that can mess with a football team’s head. The game is still important but now it sets the tone for the rest of the season. It doesn't define a season.
“I don't know if it's better now or not just because they've been coming off of three really big wins,” said Wood.
“We're looking at it as an advantage because win or lose we still got a chance to come back in conference,” said Har-Ber senior safety Collin Richardson. “If we win it puts us in the driver's seat for the rest of the year.”
Bentonville's three straight games against out-of-state teams have proved beneficial. The Tigers are 3-0 and ranked 24th in the country. They've been playing at a high level and usually this is when teams come down from that high. But don't expect a letdown from the Tigers on Friday night.
“Coach Lunney does a real good job keeping his guys humble and focused on the task at hand,” said Wood. “We know they're going to come in here ready to go and continue to build off the momentum they already got.”
“We know that they're ready for us and we're going to be ready for them come Friday,” said Richardson. “We've been practicing hard this week. We're going to stay focused and be ready to go.”
Bentonville runs the ball extremely well. Tearris Wallace is one of the top 3 running backs in the state and their defense is even better, giving up nine points per game.
“They're just talented across the board defensively,” said Wood. There's really no weaknesses we're forced to go after. We've got to try and eat some clock and get some first downs and to do that you've got to get a run game going.”
Har-Ber is a team still working on getting into good form. Friday night is huge but it won’t derail a season. The Wildcats know it’s a long year and the playoffs are two months away.
“We're making the right progress and we're not going to put all our eggs in one basket in week four,” said Wood. “It's a 10-game process. Do we want to be 1-0 at the end of Friday night? Yes we do, just like everyone else. But we're going to go out there and make sure we're getting better.”