BENTONVILLE — Walking a tightrope on the little things that determine victory and defeat, the Conway Wampus Cats fell out of the 7A state playoffs Friday night.
Bentonville took advantage of a 40-yard punt return by Cody Scroggins for the only score of the second half on the way to a 21-14 victory in the semifinals at Tiger Stadum, where the Tigers are 8-0 in the state playoffs and haven’t lost to an Arkansas team since 2009.
With the score tied at 14, Scroggins found an opening in the Conway defense and returned to the CHS 20. Dylan Smith, who rushed for 140 yards on 22 carries, scored on the next play with 4:22 left in the third quarter.
"We had him (Scroggins) and we didn’t make a play when we had to make it; that kind of sums it up," said Ashcraft, whose team advanced to the semifinals for the first time in his five years as head coach.
"I saw four of them around me and I just did a little juke move and got to the outside," said Scroggins.
The decisive punt occurred after Xavier Domineack sacked Breylin Smith for a 16-yard loss.
Bentonville (10-2) will make its fourth straight trip to the 7A title game Friday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The Tigers will play 12-0 Cabot, which defeated North Little Rock in double overtime.
Later, Conway drove to the Bentonville 28 but had a 12-yard completion wiped out by a holding penalty on fourth and seven. The Cats’ final chance was wiped out when Scroggins recovered a fumble by Matt Cummins after he took a crunching tackle after a reception with 4:22 left. The Tigers ran out the clock.
"They are too good a team to make those little mistakes against," said Ashcraft.
Bentonville finally got time on its side the second half.
The Wampus Cats, who saw one of their most successful seasons in recent history end at 9-3, craftily kept the ball away from the Tigers in the first half with superb execution of a game plan, racking up 16 first downs to the Tigers’ 6. They had touchdown drives of 94 and 92 yards in forging a 14-14 tie at halftime.
"i was proud of how we handled the ball in the first half," said Ashcraft. "The best defense against them is your offense."
Bentonville ended with 309 yards of offense to the Cats 307.
Tiger quarterback Kasey Ford passed 27 yards to Jimmie Jackson to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Aided by two 15-yard penalties, the Cats drove 94 yards to tie the score on Kevin Chamorro’s 3-yard run.
Making the most of the Tigers’ limited possessions in the first half, Ford passed 54 yards to Scroggins for a 14-7 lead.
A 19-yard pass from Breylin Smith to Sidney Moore and another pass to Brock Mitchell set up Chamorro’s 3-yard run that tied the score at 14 with 12 seconds left in the half.
Chamorro rushed for 92 yards on 22 carries. Smith, a sophomore, completed 25 of 31 passes for 214 yares. Senior Sidney Moore, who made an assortment of key catches, had 116 yards on 13 receptions.