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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF Nick Whitlatch, Bentonville West running back, breaks the tackle of Reed Hughes, Conway defender, in the first quarter Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, at Wolverine Stadium in Centerton.

Are you ready for a fun sequel?

No, not Frozen II, although I'm bracing myself for when our 10-year-old neighbor rushes into the house and sings "Let It Go" at the top of her lungs again for the next three months. I'm referring instead to Bryant vs. Bentonville West II in the high school football playoffs.

Sequels are inevitable in the playoffs, especially in Class 7A and Class 6A where they are only 16 teams in each division.

Bentonville West and Bentonville High advanced to the state semifinals with victories at home on Friday night. Bentonville West defeated Conway 31-21 while Bentonville High remained undefeated with a 41-10 victory over Little Rock Catholic. Both wins came after first-round byes and West advanced to the semifinals for the second time in its four-year history as a varsity program.

Bentonville West had playoff shirts made that read "Finish the Fight" and the Wolverines certainly did that in the fourth quarter against Conway, which rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the first quarter to take a 21-17 lead. Bentonville West delivered the final blows on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Dalton McDonald to Brandon Humes and a 65-yard touchdown run by Nick Whitlatch. Whitlatch then sealed the victory with a tackle behind the line of scrimmage on a final fourth down attempt for Conway.

Bentonville West will not shy away from its challenge against Bryant, the defending state champions who are 11-0 on the season.

"We get to play after Thanksgiving for a second-straight year and the second time in our four-year program," Bentonville West coach Bryan Pratt said after he received the water cooler treatment following the game. "We've got a tough road ahead this week but, hey, we're one of four teams left."

Bentonville West traveled over four hours to Bryant on Sept. 14 for the original confrontation in what can only be described as "Fright Night" for the Wolverines. Bryant dominated the game and won 38-0 after piling up over 400 yards in the first half.

"They're a legit No. 1 team," Pratt said following the shutout. "Right now, they're the best team we've played in a long time. They can just do it all. They can run it, they can throw it, they can play great defense. They really put you in tough situations."

Nothing has changed for Bryant after Pratt made those comments three months ago. The Hornets eliminated Fayetteville 42-14 on Friday after beating the Bulldogs 42-13 at Harmon Field on Sept. 20.

Bentonville West gets its second chance this week with the Hornets, who've won 15 consecutive games dating back to 34-28 loss to North Little Rock last November. The sequel didn't go too well for North Little Rock, which lost 27-7 to Bryant in the championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

While Bentonville West travels south this week, North Little Rock heads north to meet the Bentonville Tigers, who are 11-0 after a 41-10 victory over Little Rock Catholic. Bentonville's sharp performance on Friday contrasted greatly from last season when the Tigers lost 30-17 to Fort Smith Northside following a first-round bye.

Bentonville scored on its first possession against Little Rock Catholic then stretched its lead to 21-0 at halftime.

"I think we're playing really good football at the right time," Bentonville High coach Jody Grant said. "Offensively, we're operating really well and that's even at times leaving points on the board. Defensively, we're a good football team. We give up first downs, but we just don't give up many touchdowns."

Fans speculating about a Bentonville vs. Bryant showdown will have to wait another week. There's tough games ahead, including a return trip by Bentonville West for the sequel at Hornets Stadium.

"Bryant's a great football team," Pratt said. "But if you're going to win (a state championship), you've got to beat the best."

Preps Sports on 11/24/2019

Print Headline: Wolverines eager to change outcome in Bentonville West vs. Bryant II

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