South­west Elite: Tigers take ti­tle

Ben­tonville High knocks off de­fend­ing champs in game

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - MIKE CAPSHAW

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.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

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.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

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.

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