Bentonville, Miscues Sink Spartans, 44-34
9.10.16 by Ron Holt
BENTONVILLE, Ark. - For the second straight week, Bixby High's Spartans challenged a state power, scored 34 points but returned home winless and frustrated.
Last week, Jenks, the best team in Oklahoma, scored with 40 seconds left to edge the Spartans, 38-34.
Friday, Bentonville High, the fifth-ranked team in Class 7A in Arkansas, provided the key plays late as the Tigers pulled away for a 44-34 victory over the disappointed Spartans.
While the Spartans, 0-2, were statistically impressive, similar to the numbers amassed against Jenks, it was mistakes that doomed the visitors. Five turnovers, 10 penalties, missed tackles and missed assignments offset the 511 yards of total offense.
"We just handed it over. We had how many turnovers, five? We had way too many mistakes," said Bixby head football coach Loren Montgomery afterward. "You expect to clean some of those things up in the second week but we didn't.
"We've got to go back to the drawing board and find out if it's the way we're practicing … we've got to get better. They executed really well but we broke down too many times all over the place," he added.
Bentonville, 1-1, wasted little time putting the Spartans on the defensive as quarterback Canaan Ross passed to Joe Britton for an 80-yard touchdown on the game's first play. To their credit, every time the Tigers put Bixby in a hole the Spartans battled back.
Tucker Pawley, who finished with 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 26 attempts, scored from five yards out and senior quarterback Tanner Griffin found senior wide receiver Nic Swanson for a 28-yard TD pass play to give the Spartans a 14-7 lead at the 6:24 mark of the second quarter.
Bentonville's Jacob Clark ran 45 yards for a touchdown and Hayden Moehring kicked a 22-yard field goal to the give the hosts a 17-14 halftime lead.
Pawley capped off an 80-yard drive in 11 plays by pushing the ball across from a yard out to retake the lead, 20-17, with 7:51 left in the third quarter. But, Ross scored from four yards out and Tyler Johnson corralled a 29-yard touchdown toss from Nate Lyons as Bentonville went on top, 30-20.
The Griffin-to-Swanson combination clicked again for a 34-yard touchdown pass play as time expired in the third quarter to trim the Tiger lead to 30-27.
A freakish play provided the next touchdown for Bentonville as Pawley had the ball stripped away and returned 29 yards for a touchdown by Tyrell Lyons to extend the Tiger lead to 37-27 with 9:48 left in the game.
Bixby again made it a three-point game, 37-34, with 6:29 left in the contest when Griffin hit Staton King with a 14-yard touchdown pass. King impressively caught the ball as a Tiger defender was trying for the interception.
The Spartans had one last opportunity with 2:37 left, taking over at their own 15-yard line. The drive ended when Griffin was intercepted. Bentonville iced the win with Destyn Adkins' 17-yard TD sprint with less than a minute remaining.
"It's frustrating when you score 34 but it's not enough … we've just got to score more," said Griffin, who passed for 327 yards on 28-of-45 passing and three Tds. He was also picked off twice. "We've got to improve every week. I felt good tonight but we made some mistakes that we've got to fix in practice."
Swanson has his finest outing of the season and probably the best in his career as he caught 12 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 13.1 yards per catch. The statistics didn't mean much to Swanson without the win.
"I think we need to come out and play a little better and limit the penalties, threes and out and just play a little better offense. The penalties and turnovers killed us," said Swanson. "I felt I could have played better by helping out in the run game, blocking-wise.
"We've just got to come out next week and play better," Swanson added.
Bixby out-gained the Tigers, who finished with 453 total offensive yards, including 330 passing yards, and Bentonville, which won state championships in 2013 and 2014, was victimized by 16 penalties for 145 yards. In the turnover department, the Tigers won with only one give away.
"We've played two really good teams but in order to be where we want to be we've got to be able to win games like that which is a mark of a good team," Coach Montgomery said. "Especially like the last two weeks when we put ourselves in position to win even with all the mistakes."

NEXT GAME - After two straight weeks on the road, Bixby opens the home schedule on Friday, Sept. 16, against the Putnam City Pirates. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Putnam City is 2-0 on the season after beating Putnam City North (16-7) in Week One and beating El Reno, 24-6, last Friday.

EVERS RETURNS - After sitting out two scrimmages and last week's opener at Jenks because of a leg injury, Bixby's senior defensive lineman Brendon Evers played against Bentonville. Despite not being at 100 percent, Evers forced a fumble which Bixby recovered to stop a Tiger scoring threat. He also had a tackle for a loss later in the game. "I might have felt a little rusty in the first half but not the second. I played better as the game went on," Evers said. "At the end of the day we just didn't start fast enough. It's a mixture of mistakes and the little things. We've all got something to work on."

NOTABLES - Bixby ran 83 plays to 55 by Bentonville with the Spartans averaging 6.2 yards per play while the Tigers averaged 8.2 yards per play. …Bentonville's Ross passed for 251 yards and one touchdown. He completed 13-of-19 passes. …Bixby had 29 first downs, compared to 19 for Bentonville.