LITTLE ROCK For a team that was so good on offense, it was a key defensive play that helped Fayetteville close out Bentonville in the Class 7A state title game.
Facing a fourth-and-20 at their own 10, Cole Harris intercepted Tigers' quarterback Reece Dollins and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown with 1:56 left in the game to clinch a 31-20 victory and the Purple 'Dogs second straight 7A championship.
Earlier in the game, leading 14-7 midway through the third quarter, Jordan Dennis picked off Dollins for the first time and returned it 42 yards for a score and a 21-7 lead.
The two defensive scores offset a night where Dollins went 18-for-29 for 198 yards and a pair of scores. Fayetteville (10-3) quarterback Austin Allen, the game's most valuable player for the Purple 'Dogs, went 19-for-28 for 198 yards and no touchdowns passing. He added a rushing touchdown.
The win also gives Fayetteville the edge over Bentonville (12-1) in 7A title games over the past three seasons. The Tigers beat the Purple 'Dogs in 2010, while Fayetteville has taken the last two state championship contests over Bentonville in the last two years.
Bentonville got within four with a on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Dollins to Jimmie Jackson with 8:34 left in the fourth quarter, but faced an 80-yard drive for the game-winning score after Fayetteville's Ryan Starr missed a 46-yard field goal with 3:10 left in the game.
On that drive, the Tigers committed back-to-back penalties to push them back, then after two incomplete passes, Dollins attempted to hit Jackson on a deep slant, but Harris broke on the ball, caught it and went untouched into the endzone to essentially put the game out of reach.
Read more about this game in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.