Southwest Elite: Tigers take title
Bentonville High knocks off defending champs in game
SPRINGDALE —With Kam’ron Mays-Hunt drawing the full attention of the defense, Bentonville High’s Easton Miller and Tyler Johnson stepped in to make plays.
Miller and Johnson provided the big plays and powered the Tigers to a 27-18 championship victory over Bixby, Okla., in the Southwest Elite 7-on-7 Showcase at Champions Stadium on Saturday.
Bixby, which won the two-day event last summer and went on to win its third consecutive Class 6A- II Oklahoma state title in December, paid extra attention to Mays-Hunt, the Tigers’ play-making senior receiver. He made a few key receptions early in the championship, but Miller and Johnson made the crucial catches in crunch time.
The game served as a preview for a much-anticipated Week 2 rematch when the
Spartans and Tigers play at Bixby on Sept. 8.
“You can take one guy away, but they’ve got multiple playmakers,” said Bixby coach Loren Montgomery. “They’ve got some great players and coach (Jody) Grant does a great job over there. We’ll see them Week 2, so we’ll have to have some stuff ready for them.”
Grant said facing a defense focused on stopping MaysHunt was the perfect test for the regular season.
“We’ve got to get used to that because people are going to do everything they can to take Kam away, which is hard to do,” Grant said. “But people are going to design their defenses to do that, so we’ve got to find ways to get the ball to other people.”
Bixby took over possession with the score knotted at 18-18 with 37.6 seconds remaining in regulation, Bentonville got a coverage sack (when the quarterback doesn’t pass the ball in under five seconds) and a pair of dropped passes to take a 20-18 lead because teams are awarded two points for defensive stops in 7-on-7 play.
Bentonville didn’t need a touchdown but did need a first down in three plays to secure the victory when it took over possession with 19.9 remaining. But Miller, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior, caught a short pass from Nate Lyons over the middle, slipped by a defender and raced to the end zone. Miller tacked on another reception for the point after to create the final margin.
“I should have just ended the game and slid,” Miller said. “But I felt like I could score and I wanted to score, so I went and scored. It was a fun feeling.”
Grant added, “We actually prefer he not score in that situation, but it’s hard to tell a kid not to score. But it’s alright. It worked out.”
Johnson, a senior tight end, made a leaping grab in the back of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown and followed it up with a diving catch on the two-point conversion to even the score at 18-18. Johnson also made a juggling catch on a ball that was tipped by a defender for a 40-yard touchdown, Bentonville’s first of the game, to cut the deficit to 12-10 with under eight minutes remaining.
Grant was pleased with the play of Lyons, the Tigers’ senior quarterback who overcame two early interceptions to lead the them to their second Southwest Elite title. They also won the event in 2011.
Bentonville avenged its only loss from Friday’s pool play with a 22-20 win against Aurora (Ill.) Christian. After receiving a first round bye as the No. 5 seed, it opened Saturday with a 32-13 victory over Fort Branch (Ind.) Gibson Southern. It marched through the winners’ bracket by also defeating Owasso, Okla., 26-14 and Bixby 21-18.
Staying out of the losers’ bracket kept the Tigers out of the heat and gave them plenty of rest between games.
“It feels really good,” Grant said. “We don’t do a whole lot of 7-on-7s. This is the only one we do, but we go all in. Our kids competed well. This is one of the best tournaments around with a lot of good teams representing a lot of different states, so this is exciting for us.”
Bentonville’s Easton Miller looks for running room between a pair of Bixby defenders Saturday during the annual Southwest Elite 7-on-7 tournament at Shiloh Christian Saturday.
Bentonville’s Kam’Ron Mays-Hunt eyes the end zone Saturday during the final game against Bixby during the annual Southwest Elite 7-on-7 tournament at Shiloh Christian.