BENTONVILLE (KFSM)--With one week to play in the regular season, Bentonville and Bentonville West are each 6-0 in conference play. So when the Wolverines (9-0) and Tigers (7-2) get together on Friday night, the 7A West title is on the line.
"There’s definitely an intense rivalry," West coach Bryan Pratt said. "There’s a lot on the line, a lot at stake. A lot of people didn’t really feel like it would be happening this quick."
"We’ve been doubted a lot, so it’s kind of fun to go out there and prove people wrong," Wolverine safety Jason Gloeckler said.
"I had a feeling that they would be a factor in the conference this year," said Tiger quarterback Nathan Lyons. "Maybe not to the degree that they have but we’re ready and prepared for them."
Even though Bentonville West's campus is located down the road in Centerton, most players are friends.
"We’ve grown up with these guys, we’ve played with them in boys and girls club, we’ve gone to school with them for a really long time. But when we play them on the field, they’re in our way. We don’t know them anymore, they’re in our way of a conference championship," said Lyons.
"These guys played for us as sophomores and have been a part of football for a long time. So they’ve grown up watching our program and have seen success," Bentonville coach Jody Grant acknowledged.
For West, there were numerous chances for a letdown, especially following big wins against Fayetteville and Har-Ber. But Pratt’s mantra helped avoid that.
"We say we’re 1-0 for the ninth time now. So our kids did a really good job of that, just trying to focus on the task at hand."
Gloeckler added, "A lot of us are divided up offense and defense but then we knew during the games that we had to come together to be successful."
"You’re talking about a team that returns 22 starters, plus they had what I hear five to seven move ins that are quality football players," Grant said. "No other team in class 7A has that."
On the other sideline stands a five time state champion. After a 1-2 start with losses to Kansas City Rockhurst and Conway, Bentonville’s won all six conference games.
"If you’ve got a team that’s really well coached and the team’s bought in to the system like theirs have, you’re gonna be successful," Pratt said.
The game kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. with the winner securing the top seed in the 7A playoffs and the loser settling for the second seed. Both Bentonville schools will receive first round byes regardless of outcome. But because the schools share a stadium, the loser must play home playoff games Thursday nights, with the winner playing Fridays.