Gaining first downs and making big plays are going to be crucial in every possession.
Bentonville won 11 games this season and scored first in 10 of them, showing that early points can be a deciding factor in the outcome of the game.
2. Run The Football
All season, Bentonville has continued to play smash-mouth football with running backs Shane Boedeker and Erik Ragsdale. In fact, in the last two weeks, Bentonville's coaches also let senior linebacker Brandon Sleeth — one of the defense's best players — run the ball because of his speed and athletic ability. That alone shows how important running the football is to the Tigers.
This season, Bentonville has totaled 2,538 rushing yards, averaging 211.5 yards per game. The Tigers definitely need to keep that trend going today if they want any shot at winning the game.
3. Slow Daniel McGee
This might be one of the most important keys to winning today's game. Daniel McGee is fast enough and strong enough to beat a team by himself if he's not consistently stopped. Bentonville is not only going to have to find ways to keep McGee from making big runs out of the backfield, but also find ways to stop senior Anthony Warren. Both players have combined for more than 2,200 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground this season.
4. Make Game-Winning Plays
In any state championship game, making game-winning plays is a must. There's a reason both teams have made it this far, but at this point, only one team can come away as the state champion. Bentonville's offense will have to find ways early in the game to make big plays, with either long passes from senior quarterback J.C. King or short runs from Boedeker, Ragsdale or sophomore quarterback Pearson Gean. Bentonville's defense will also have to play through all four quarters.
5. Tradition Starts Now
It's no secret that Bentonville's football program doesn't have much of a tradition. Sure, the Tigers won their first and only state title in 2001, but had mediocre seasons before and after that. However, since 2005, when Barry Lunney arrived in Bentonville, the Tigers have consistently improved every season.
Today could be the dawning of a new era if the Tigers can find a way to come out and play well enough to beat Fort Smith Southside and regain the glory they had seven years ago.
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