BENTONVILLE (KFSM)-- When Bentonville took down cross town upstarts Bentonville West for the 7A West title, it was supposed to be a day filled with triumph. But that's not how the Tiger running back corps remembers it.
"It was basically a sad day," sophomore Preston Crawford said.
"When Easton went down, it was the saddest thing man," senior Joey Escamilla said. "I still wish he was here."
Star running back and senior leader Easton Miller was lost to a season ending injury in the game. But he hasn’t been absent from the team during their playoff run, says head coach Jody Grant
"Easton’s one of our leaders, and I basically turned his role into one of helping those young backs and coaching them up, and he’s with them, he’s in the film room with them."
Miller was responsible for 14 touchdowns during the regular season. For the playoffs, Grant said the plan was to go to a "running back by committee" approach, and to ride the hot hand. As it's turned out, that hand has mostly belonged to a sophomore.
"Preston Crawford’s got a chance to be real special at this game, and we’ve known that since he was an eighth grader in our district," says Grant. So we’re excited that he’s getting the opportunity now to get some carries."
Of course, those carries are coming at the most important, and nerve wracking, time of the year, as Crawford quickly learned.
"I was pretty nervous, cause it was my first start on varsity. After my first run, I was like ok, I’m back to my old self."
Crawford rushed for 85 yards and two scores in the semifinal win over Bryant. But he wasn’t the only Tiger back to score in the game.
"It feels amazing to actually, like, start off the actual game as a running back."
Those are the words of the still-beaming Joey Escamilla, a senior who started the season on the scout team, and ended a playoff game in the end zone.
"It feels amazing. Like scout team, it was cool and all, but now since I got an opportunity to show out, then I can."
While he's excited about his own long-awaited opportunity, Escamilla understands the Tiger's future at running back, both in the long term and immediately, lies with Crawford.
"Preston is showing up, putting in work, scoring touchdowns, he’s looking amazing out there, it’s amazing when you see him play."
While the loss of Miller was an emotional one, the Tigers are excited everyone, from scout team to sophomore, has stepped up. Bentonville takes on North Little Rock Saturday for the state championship.