When a new season begins, fans have grown accustomed to seeing the same teams at the top of the 7A-West. In recent history, it's been a conference dominated by the same few teams.
But this year has a much different look than expected as league play kicks off on Friday night.
League favorites Bentonville and Bentonville West went a combined 0-6 in the non-conference portion of the schedule while the Bulldogs (both Fayetteville and Springdale) are still sitting perfect after the first four weeks of the season.
Scheduling tough opponents in the non-conference is the norm for Bentonville as they enter 7A-West play with a losing record for the second straight season. Last season, the Tigers still reached the state title game.
"I think our kids understand the blueprint of this because of what we went through last year," Bentonville coach Jody Grant said. "Just because you didn't get it done in the non-conference doesn't mean you're not going to get it done in the conference play. One of the reasons we play a tough non-conference is to prepare our kids for the conference runs."
Fayetteville entered the season with plenty of question marks, especially after a lack-luster showing in their benefit game (scrimmage) against Greenwood. However, the Purple Dogs have been as impressive as any team in the state through the first month.
"We're tickled to be 3-0, no question, but you can erase that," Fayetteville coach Billy Dawson said. "Bentonville West is 0-3, you can erase that too. They're going to come in here, they've got some great players. They're very well coached. It all starts over Friday."
7A-West Matchups on Friday
Har-Ber at Bentonville
West at Fayetteville
Van Buren at Rogers
Heritage at Springdale