Bentonville finally got time on its side the second half Friday night and made a long punt return count in the second half to end Conway’s football season, 21-14, in the 7A semifinals at Bentonville.
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 racking up 16 first downs to the Tigers’ 6, including a 94- and 92-yard scoring drives, in forging a 14-14 tie at halftime.
Bentonville (10-2), which advanced to the state title game for the fourth straight year, produced the only score on the second half and made it stand up as it ended up with a five-minute edge in possession time.
"i was proud of how we handled the ball in the first half," said Conway coach Clint Ashcraft. "The best defense against them is your offense."
The Tigers will play undefeated Cabot, which defeated North Little Rock in double overtime, for the state title Friday night at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
The breakthrough came when the Tigers’ Cody Scroggins returned a punt 41 yards to the Conway 20. Dylan Smith, who rushed for 140 yards on 22 carries, broke through to the end zone on the next play to ut the Tigers up, 21-14, 2ith 4:22 left in the third quarter.
"We had him (Scroggins) and we didn’t make a play when 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.
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 yars 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 45 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.
The Tigers have not lost to an Arkansas team on their home field since 2009 and are now 9-0 in the state playoffs at Tiger Stadium.