SP vs Bentonville

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2012

SP faces top-ranked Bentonville, Ark. in gridiron action tonight

By Angie Ledbetter

The South Panola Tigers took a six and a half hour road trip to Bentonville, Ark. to take on Arkansas’s No. 1 team the Bentonville Tigers.

“We really don’t know how different they are until we play them but they look good on film. They look comparable to the teams in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and MUS but until you actually get out there it’s hard to say,” Pogue said.

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Bentonville (2-0) has defeated Rockhurst of Kansas City, 24-7 and Broken Arrow from Oklahoma 20-0 who is one of the top teams in their state.

Pogue said, “You can tell Bentonville has a lot of confidence and feels good about themselves. They’ve been good enough to win as far as not making critical mistakes to put them in a bind.”
Bentonville is ranked No. 28 nationally and South Panola is No. 120.

Bentonville is a two-time state champion in 2008 and 2010 and lost a close game to Fayetteville, 29-28, last year.   

Bentonville returns eight starters on defense and three on offense.

“They’re good on both sides of the ball but defensively they have all of their starters back so that’s their strength,” said Pogue. “Our offense has to build off of last week. I thought it was a good show for us and there are still things we can improve on. We had good balance last week to be able to run and throw it but we have to continue to do that.”

One of Bentonville’s key defensive players is Garrett Kaufman, a 6’2”, 220-pound linebacker.
On the offense senior quarterback Reese Dollins, 5’10”, 175 pounds is the signal caller.

“Dollins is a real good player, a smart kid and a leader on their team,” Pogue said. “He manages their offense really well and can throw the ball.”

One of the top runningbacks in the country is also on the roster, Tearris Wallace, 5’10”, 211-pound senior. Wallace averaged more than 42 points per game last season.

“He’s one of the best running backs I’ve seen in a very long time,” said Pogue. “He’s a really tough guy who’s got breakaway speed and hard to tackle. He’s a top notch runningback.”

Other key players include senior safety Nate Gneiting; wide receiver Kaleb Haney, 6’2”, 180-pounds; senior Trey Perkins, 5’11”; and senior kicker Dillon Wade, 5’10”, 163 pounds.

“They’re very well balanced, mix it well and do a good job with it. With that good quarterback and running back it makes a difference.

“Those guys have been around for a while and have done a great job,” Pogue added.

“Their kicking game is really good with Wade. He can really kick it.”

Bentonville Head Coach Barry Lunney Sr. said his Tigers are excited to play South Panola.

“We’re excited to play anybody period because we were like South Panola looking for a game real late trying to fill a spot. It was important for us to play this game and finding an opponent to play like South Panola was just a bonus.

“South Panola is a great program and there’s no doubt they have a lot of tradition, history and championships,” Lunnery continued. “Playing a quality program like them will help us get ready for our conference this year. They’ve got us on the size and speed but we also have some kids that are talented, too.

“This is my first year to play a team in Mississippi and I think it’s great for both states. There’s no doubt they have a lot of talent with three division one teams and a host of junior colleges,” Lunnery said.

Pogue encourages fans to attend the game if possible.

“I know times are tough economically right now with gas prices etc., but we encourage any fans that are in a position to go, the players will certainly appreciate their support but we fully understand it’s a six and a half hour trip.”

Kickoff tonight is 7 p.m.