SHAWNEE, Kan. — After Bentonville had a trio of lightning-fast scores Friday night, it was a thunderous drive that helped the Tigers knock off Kansas’ defending Class 5A state champions.
Josh Ficklin barreled in from 5 yards out with 4 minutes, 5 seconds remaining and capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive, and Johnny Anderson’s interception in the end zone sealed the victory as Benton-ville escaped with a 35-28 victory over Mill Valley at Jaguar Field.
“That’s the second week in a row we have dealt with that,” Tigers coach Jody Grant said. “That’s a good football team, and we had chances — I felt like — to possibly put the game away and didn’t do that. But we got it done in the end, and I’m proud of them.”
Mill Valley (2-1) needed a 1-yard touchdown from quarterback Connor Marsh on a fourth-down play to tie the game at 28 with 7:57 remaining before Bentonville started its game-winning drive. Ficklin, who finished with 77 yards on 15 carries, carried the ball four straight times, including a 12-yard run to start the drive.
Andrew Edwards then hit passes of 26 yards to Chas Nimrod and 11 yards to Cooper Smith to move the Tigers (3-0) to the Jaguars 15. Ficklin then handled the ball the next three times, including his touchdown run as he followed the left side of his offensive line.
“Josh is very talented,” Grant said. “We just wanted him to slowly get comfortable with our system and what we are doing. He’s starting to get there, and he’s a guy we feel very confident with to give him the ball. He’s going to do the things we ask him to do, and he’s been very consistent at it for three straight weeks.”
Mill Valley, however, made things interesting with its final drive as the Jaguars marched from their 30 to the Bentonville 17 in 10 plays. Quarterback Connor Marsh picked up the last 23 yards on a scramble play, but he was shaken up as he was hit while attempting to drive, and Mill Valley called its final timeout with 20 seconds remaining.
Sophomore quarterback Hayden Jay entered the game, and his pass to Kendrick Jones was well overthrown. Anderson then intercepted the ball and returned it to the Bentonville 21 with 9 seconds left, and the Tigers took a knee to end the game.
“They tried to run that play a drive or two before that,” Anderson said. “I just knew it. I was all over it and waiting for it to come. I saw it set up, so I sat all over it and picked it off.
“We did our job. We balled out. We made a few mistakes, but we’re going to get better.”
Edwards, who finished 11 of 15 passing for 283 yards, threw touchdown passes of 76 and 59 yards to Nimrod and 80 yards to Cade Foster, with the latter coming on the first play of the second half and giving Bentonville a 28-21 lead. That lead stood until Marsh’s third touchdown run of the game.
Nimrod finished with five catches for 176 yards. Marsh completed 12 of 22 passes for 153 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown to Jacob Hartman, while Jaguars tailback Quin Wittenauer added 132 yards on 26 carries.
• The win gives Benton-ville back-to-back 3-0 marks through nonconference play.
• Sean Anderson had a 10-yard run for Bentonville’s first touchdown, which was set up with a blocked punt.
• Mill Valley had won 12 straight games after starting last season with a 1-3 mark before its loss to Bentonville.
• Bentonville begins 7A-West Conference play next week against Springdale Har-Ber (1-2) at Tiger Stadium. It will be Bentonville’s home opener.
Henry Apple can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWAHenry.