FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) - The offseason was anything but smooth for the Fayetteville Bulldogs.
The defending 7A state champions had their head coach resign with controversy swirling then the Bulldogs made the biggest splash possible as they hired Bill Blankenship.
Once the season finally kicked off, a familiar speed bump got in the way as they dropped a regular season game to Bentonville. Despite all of that, Fayetteville finds itself back in the 7A title game and it's exactly where they expected to be.
"It's a big honor to get back there," Fayetteville quarterback Taylor Powell said. "We worked really hard in the offseason. Put in a lot of hours and dedication towards this goal but we haven't reached it so we're one step closer to our goal."
"It means a lot. It will be great to win two state titles in a row," Fayetteville defensive tackle Akial Byers said.
Winning a second straight title isn't a guarantee as the Bulldogs' defense will be tested by North Little Rock's bruising rushing attack, led by senior Alex Day.
"We better find where (Day) is," Fayetteville coach Bill Blankenship said. "He is really, really good with the ball in his hands and they've got a lot of skill kids that can play but we're definitely going to know where he is."
Fayetteville has plenty of offensive weapons of their own and it all starts with senior quarterback Taylor Powell.
"He can do it all. He can run. He can throw. He amazes you with some of the things he does," North Little Rock coach Jamie Mitchell said. "The timing routes he throws are on the money. He's a competitor, you love to see that in him. They drive you crazy trying to figure out a way to defend them."
The Bulldogs are not only the defending 7A state champion but they're also carrying the torch for their conference. The 7A-West has won the state's largest classification title in every season dating back to 2005.
"We know those guys have ruled for the past 10-12 years, the 7A state championship," Mitchell said. "They've crowded us out of even being there. Now we're there and now it's our job to find a way to win the game."