Taylor Powell shook off a slow start to help Fayetteville cruise to a 39-point win over North Little Rock Friday night.
The Class of 2017 quarterback completed 23 of 29 passes (79.3 percent) for 323 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown in the 53-14 mercy rule win over the Charging Wildcats, in which he played only the first half.
“Preparing all week, we felt like we could come out here and execute,” Powell said. “All we had to do was execute our game plan and the score would take care of itself.”
It was a slow start for the Bulldogs, as they went three-and-out on their first possession and gave up a touchdown to fall behind 7-0.
They picked up the pace drastically on their next drive, marching down the field in two minutes to tie the game. An 18-yard touchdown pass by Powell capped the drive.
During the drive, and throughout the rest of the game, Fayetteville pushed the tempo, snapping the ball very early in the play clock.
“I like it, personally, playing in an up-tempo offense because it gets you more plays and able to score more points and be more explosive,” Powell said.
Score more points is exactly what the Bulldogs did.
After a successful onside kick, Fayetteville tried a double pass, but it was sniffed out by North Little Rock and Powell was sacked for a 16-yard loss.
However, two long passes and a fourth-and-one conversion kept the drive alive, which Powell eventually capped with a 5-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion pass.
He was 2 of 2 on two-point conversion throws during the game.
The lead ballooned to 38-7 by the end of the first quarter (thanks in part to touchdown passes of 10 and 49 yards by Powell) and 53-7 by halftime.
“Middle of the first quarter through the second quarter, we just exploded,” Fayetteville head coach Daryl Patton said. “We didn’t leave anything in the bag. We tried everything – tricks, onside kicks.”
North Little Rock added a touchdown in the game’s final two minutes, playing against mostly backups, but the Charging Wildcats could not get anything else.
Class of 2017 running back Alex Day, the younger brother of Arkansas running back Juan Day, had four carries for 20 yards – including a 7-yard touchdown run – on North Little Rock’s opening drive, but was limited to 16 yards on five carries the rest of the game.
The total – 36 yards on nine carries – was much lower than Day’s 180 yards the previous week, but despite the showing, teammate Tobias Enlow – a wide receiver with a preferred walk-on offer from Arkansas who tore his ACL before the season – said he has been impressed with the junior.
“I think he’s a great player,” Enlow said. “Honestly, in my eyes, I think he’s better than Juan. He runs hard, he’s fast and it probably takes the whole team to bring him down.”
Powell stole the show Friday, though, proving why he is considered one of the state’s best 2017 prospects.
Since Sept. 1, when it became legal by NCAA rules, he said he been contacted by several college coaches from around the country. Notre Dame, Illinois and Pitt, as well as in-state schools Arkansas and Arkansas State have reached out to him.
Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. has been his main recruiter with the Razorbacks.
“We’re just keeping in touch,” Powell said. “He told me good luck tonight and we just keep in touch and that sort of thing.”
For Powell, it has been a surreal few weeks.
“It’s awesome,” Powell said. “I’ve always dreamed of playing DI football and now that’s starting to appear as a possibility. It’s a dream come true.”
While it was a dominant win, Powell said there are still several areas of his game he’d like to work on, including his footwork, leadership qualities and his reads.
His coach, however, was plenty pleased after the game.
“Best quarterback in the state,” Patton said. “He’s phenomenal. He’s very composed for a junior. Accuracy is just unbelievable. He’s a leader.It was a great win for us and he played exceptionally well.”