BENTONVILLE (KFSM) - Bentonville entered December 2nd, 2017 with a hope to have an ending like 2008, 2010, 2013, or 2014. A game where their side of the scoreboard featured a higher number and players with sweat dripping down their foreheads threw off their helmets and pads to embrace one another while holding up a trophy declaring them champions.
It was what could've been the comeback of the year. With seconds left and the Tigers racing down the field, the team fell a split second short as time expired on the final snap.
It took a few seconds to process when the refs blew the whistle. But as soon as North Little Rock started jumping up and down, Bentonville knew. The game was over. Their comeback was incomplete.
"The whole game, it just gives us motivation to go out there and not just win for our own class, but all the classes under us, and all the classes that came before us," said senior kicker Sam Younger. "There's so much tradition."
"We got there. We know what it's like to get there. I think that getting back there, and this time winning and succeeding is just what all our minds are on," added senior defensive end Zechariah Ellis. "That's everything to us right now."
Where some might see a loss in the state championship game as the end, Bentonville sees it as just the beginning - knowing there's places to improve and goals to reach.
"There's no shame in the sense that we were just a few plays away from winning the thing," Coach Grant said.
The Tigers bitterness is turning to eagerness and hungriness, knowing that this is the chance to get the taste out of their mouths.
"Even though you got beat in the state championship game - it's a good year," explained head coach Jody Grant. "We just gotta clean some stuff up to where we're back there and when we're there, we've gotta take care of business and finish."
There's some names you may not have heard on the Bentonville roster, but young talent is never a bad thing.
"Our sophomore class, they went 10-0 last year, and they excite me," Younger mentioned. "We have a lot of returners coming back, especially on the defensive side of the ball."
Defensive experience could be what takes the Tigers to new heights this year. The teams hopes a quicker style of play will limit chances for opponents to score.
"I love the chemistry that we have as a unit in general," Ellis explained. "We're just always pushing each other, we want to run as fast as we can to the ball, we want to make plays for each other - just do our responsibilites is the big thing. Nobody's trying to be, wants the spotlight on them necessarily, but we just want to do our jobs for the benefit of our team."
"We plan on flying around and developing a mentality around here where we're a fast defense that tackles well, and that's an area we're working on," Coach Grant added.
Burying the hatchet is never easy - but with small tweaks and adjustments, the Tigers are ready to rewrite a new ending this season.
Bentonville opens up the year on August 25th with a home game against Midwest City.