CENTERTON -- Maddox Thornton knew there was no need to go for an interception Friday night.
But the Bentonville West senior defensive back also knew he couldn't let anybody else catch the ball on the game's final play.
Thornton leaped in front of Springdale Har-Ber receiver Hunter Wood in the back of the end zone and knocked the ball down as time expired, allowing Bentonville West to hold on for a 24-20 victory in a 7A-West Conference game at Wolverine Stadium.
Wolverines swat Wildcats' chance
"I saw the quarterback rolling out, saw him throw it up," Thornton said. "I was thinking to get the ball on the ground. If I get it on the ground, we get the win. I wasn't even thinking about picking it. I didn't know he was there. I was just in the moment."
Nick Whitlatch's third touchdown of the game, a 3-yard run, gave Bentonville West (5-2, 4-0 7A-West) a 24-20 lead with 5:33 remaining. Har-Ber started on its 20 after a touchback on the kickoff and drove to the Wolverines' 12 in 11 plays, with tailback Max Pena carrying the ball seven times.
But Bentonville West's defense rose to the occasion. Linebacker Andrew Trader went into the backfield and dropped Har-Ber quarterback Blaise Wittschen for an 8-yard loss to the Wolverines' 20, which forced the Wildcats to burn their final timeout with 41 seconds remaining.
"We had some kids with injuries," Bentonville West Coach Bryan Pratt said. "Jonas [Higson] was out, and Nick was about 70-75%. We just kept putting other guys in there and they kept making plays.
BENTONVILLE WEST 24, SPRINGDALE HAR-BER 20
Har — Burns 60 pass from Wittschen (Barroso kick), 8:03.
West — FG Travis 31, 3:04.
West — Whitlatch 62 run (Travis kick), 8:41.
Har — Wood 8 pass from Wittschen (kick fail), 3:03.
West — Whitatch 1 run (Travis kick), :35.
Har — Burns 2 run (Barroso kick), 9:28.
West — Whitlatch 3 run (Travis kick), 5:33.
"I didn't even know who got the quarterback sack. That was a big play, and I was just hoping we're going to get something because they're already down there. For our kids to continue to battle, I couldn't be prouder of the way they played."
Har-Ber picked up 13 yards on the next play as Wittschen hit Jay Burns with a sideline pass and stopped the clock. Bentonville West also was flagged for defensive holding, but the Wildcats chose the play instead of the penalty and opted for third and 5 from the 7 instead of second and 10 from the 12.
Har-Ber went to the ground game one more time, but Pena was dropped for a yard loss to cause fourth down. With time winding down, Wittschen rolled to his right before he threw toward the goal post, but Thornton was right there to end the threat.
"It was two good ballclubs, and it came down to the final play," said Har-Ber Coach Chris Wood, whose team fell to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference. "We just came up a little bit short.
"We had more to gain on that pass instead of the penalty. We still had two plays left and about 20-something seconds. The extra down wouldn't help with time winding down. We came in on the next play and tried to run the power, and they did a good job and stoned us up the middle."
Bentonville West’s Jonas Higson sacks Springdale Har-Ber’s Blaise Wittschen in the fourth quarter Friday at Wolverine Stadium in Centerton.
Sports on 10/19/2019
Print Headline: Wolverines swat Wildcats' chance