Fayetteville was picked third in a preseason poll of the 7A-West Conference coaches, primarily because of the load of talent the Bulldogs lost to graduation.
But the “next man up” mentality appears to be working quite well at Fayetteville, which hosts Bentonville West tonight in the conference opener at Harmon Field. Both teams went 2-1 in non-conference play.
Fayetteville won its first outright conference championship in nearly 60 years last season with a senior-dominated team that included a handful of players who are on Division 1 rosters this fall. But new stars have emerged, especially in the passing game that Fayetteville used so effectively while compiling a 10-3 record that ended with a close loss to Bryant in the Class 7A state championship game in Little Rock.
Junior Drake Lindsey has taken over at quarterback and he’s found a reliable target in senior Kaylon Morris, who leads the Bulldogs with 25 catches for 481 yards in three games. Lindsey, who’s already thrown for nearly 1,000 yards in three games, led the assault when Fayetteville blasted Fort Smith Northside 42-21 at Mayo-Thompson Stadium on Sept. 9.
Bentonville West is also dangerous offensively with quarterback Jake Casey, running back Carson Morgan, and receivers Ty Durham and Jaxson Brust leading the way. Nick Bell is the leader of a Bentonville West defense that shut down Little Rock Central 45-0 two weeks ago.
Fayetteville and Bentonville West should each be rested and eager to begin conference play after taking off last week. Bentonville and Bentonville West were each picked to finish ahead of Fayetteville in a preseason poll of the league coaches, but predictions don’t mean anything at this point.
Fayetteville is the defending conference champion and it’s going to be hard to overtake the Bulldogs, especially on their home field.
RICK’S PICK Fayetteville
(Here are some other games involving teams from our coverage area. The picks are capitalized).
Fort Smith Southside at ROGERS
Rogers Heritage at SPRINGDALE
Springdale Har-Ber at BENTONVILLE
Siloam Springs at LAKE HAMILTON
Van Buren at GREENWOOD
Clarksville at ALMA
Dardanelle at SHILOH CHRISTIAN
FARMINGTON at Harrison
PRAIRIE GROVE at Pea Ridge
Berryville at OZARK
Gravette at ELKINS
Green Forest at LINCOLN
Huntsville at GENTRY
Waldron at ASHDOWN
BOONEVILLE at Hackett
CHARLESTON at Greenland
Lavaca at CEDARVILLE
MANSFIELD at West Fork
GLEN ROSE at Paris
Johnson County Westside at HECTOR
MAGAZINE at Decatur
Mountainburg at BIGELOW
LAST WEEK 8-5 (61 percent)
OVERALL 58-22 (72 percent)