FORT SMITH — A two-minute span in the middle of the second quarter was all Bentonville needed to turn a close game into a runaway.
The Tigers scored three touchdowns in that time to turn a tie game into a commanding lead en route to a 35-7 7A-West victory over Fort Smith Southside on Friday at Rowland Stadium.
Despite some early setbacks, Bentonville (5-0, 2-0) seized control of the game in the second quarter and finished the game with 444 total yards of offense (264 passing, 180 rushing).
“We want to be a balanced offense. I think that is important,” Bentonville coach Jody Grant said. “Our goal tonight was to establish the run. We have two really talented backs, so we want to be more consistent running the football.”
The Tigers would take the lead on a 40-yard bomb from Andrew Edwards to Cooper Smith with 6 minutes, 13 seconds left in the second period. Bentonville had marched 87 yards in 9 plays, despite a pair of holding calls in the drive.
On the first play after the kickoff, Zane Ochoa picked off a Southside pass and rambled 29 yards for the touchdown and a 21-7 Tiger lead at the 5:58 mark of the second quarter.
Bentonville then went for an onside kick and recovered the kickoff at its 47.
Eight plays later, Josh Ficklin turned a fourth-and-1 into a 29-yard touchdown run and a 28-7 Tigers lead with 4:22 left before halftime. Ficklin had 100 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries for the night.
“We felt like we needed to do something to swing the momentum,” Grant said of the onside kick. “We took a chance, and we were fortunate to get it. I believe our kids did play better from that point on.”
Southside (1-4, 0-1) would not be able to overcome that two-minute stretch.
“The biggest frustration with this team is that in stretches, we can play with a team like Benton-ville,” first-year Maverick coach Kim Dameron said. “That is a good football team over there. They will compete for a 7A state championship. But just like last week, we have some positives to build on.
“When we execute and don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we’ve proven that in spurts we can play with anyone on our schedule.”
It was the Tigers that stumbled early as a 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked, and South-side’s A.J. Williams scooped up the ball and returned it 60 yards to the Bentonville 20. Luke Wyatt scored three plays later to put the Mavericks ahead 7-0 with 6:21 left in the first quarter.
“We get a stop, block the kick and get an early score. You could not script a better start for us to get some early momentum,” Dameron said.
From there, though, Benton-ville would begin to assert control of the line of scrimmage and the game.
After a 35-yard kickoff return by Kolbi Crawford, the Tigers marched 55 yards in 12 plays, capped by Ficklin’s 2-yard run with 23 seconds left in the first quarter for a 7-all tie.
“Sometimes, we need something like (the blocked field goal) to get our attention,” Grant said. “We better bring our A-game every night because we are going to get our opponents’ best shot. Southside came out ready to play and had a great game plan. It just took some time for us to get rolling."
Then came the quick scoring spree by the Tigers.
The Tigers’ final score came on the opening possession of the second half. Marching 62 yards in seven plays, Edwards hit Smith for an 8-yard touchdown two minutes into the third quarter for a 35-7 advantage. Edwards finished 21-of-26 passing for 264 and two scores.
• Bentonville scored 35 unanswered points, including 21 in a two-minute span, to remain unbeaten in the 7A-West.
• The Tigers gained 444 total yards, including 264 yards passing. Quarterback Andrew Edwards finished the game 21-of-26 passing for 264 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
• The Bentonville defense limited Southside to seven first downs and 108 total yards.
• Next week: Bentonville travels to Rogers Heritage while Southside is at Fayetteville in 7A-West conference games.
BENTONVILLE 35, FS SOUTHSIDE 7
Bentonville (5-0, 2-0) 7 21 7 0 — 35 Greenwood (1-4, 0-1) 7 0 0 0 — 7 First Quarter
SOUTH — Wyatt 2 run (DeLassus kick), 6:21. BENT — Ficklin 2 run (Turner kick), :23.
BENT — Smith 40 pass from Edwards (Turner kick), 6:13.
BENT — Ochoa 29 interception return (Turner kick), 5:58.
BENT — Ficklin 29 run (Turner kick), 4:33.
BENT — Smith 8 pass from Edwards (Turner kick), 10:01.