South­west Elite 7-on-7 Note­book

Nel­son, Russ star in Saints’ top-four fin­ish

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS OUTDOORS - SCOTTIE BORDELON Scottie Bordelon can be reached at sbor­de­ or on Twit­ter @nwas­cot­tie.

SPRING­DALE — Shiloh Chris­tian en­tered tour­na­ment play Satur­day as a 7-seed in the 27-team field. The Saints’ strong play earned them a top- four fin­ish.

Coach Jeff Con­away’s team knocked off Gen­try and Rogers High to be­gin the day be­fore bat­tling with Ok­la­homa power Bixby in three over­times. Shiloh Chris­tian fell, 55-44, but the Saints didn’t al­low the loss to de­ter them.

“You know, it’s hot out here, and there’s not much time for a break,” Con­away said. “You have a game like that and you get a lit­tle fa­tigued, but we han­dled it nicely. It was a good day.”

The Saints pro­ceeded to take down three Ok­la­homa schools — Bro­ken Ar­row, Bishop Kel­ley and Owasso — in con­sec­u­tive games to find them­selves two wins away from the tour­na­ment fi­nals. Shiloh Chris­tian’s day ended with a 27-12 loss to Aurora (Ill.) Chris­tian.

Se­nior re­ceiver Jake Nel­son starred for Shiloh Chris­tian in the win against Bishop Kel­ley, haul­ing in two touch­down catches. Jaret Russ also had a big day along­side Nel­son.

“(Nel­son) is a three-year starter and is that big-time play­maker,” Con­away said. “He can stretch the field ver­ti­cally and also has the abil­ity to be a pos­ses­sion re­ceiver. We’re for­tu­nate to have some good play­ers and some good kids.”

Quar­ter­back Eli Reece thrived run­ning the Saints’ of­fense as well. Con­away turned the of­fen­sive play-call­ing over to the 5-foot-8 sopho­more to fur­ther his devel­op­ment. The coach said he learned a lot about his team over the two-day event.

“We found out we’ve got a lot of tough play­ers,” Con­away added. “They rose to the ex­pec­ta­tion, and we talked about that be­fore the tour­na­ment be­gan. They ac­cepted it, knew the chal­lenge and grew a lot.”

Ben­tonville avenges loss to Aurora Chris­tian

It was only Ben­tonville High’s sec­ond game of the day af­ter a first-round bye, but it went a long way into the Tigers ul­ti­mately grab­bing their sec­ond South­west Elite 7-on-7 Show­case ti­tle.

Ben­tonville edged Aurora Chris­tian 22-20 to move to the quar­ter­fi­nals of the win­ner’s bracket. Aurora Chris­tian beat Ben­tonville, 37-30, Fri­day at Spring­dale High on a touch­down pass with one sec­ond re­main­ing.

“Aurora Chris­tian does 7-on-7 about as good as any­one here,” Ben­tonville coach Jody Grant said. “I’m happy with the win sim­ply be­cause now we don’t have to fight back through the loser’s bracket. It was a very com­pet­i­tive ball­game.”

The Tigers’ Eas­ton Miller shined in the win Satur­day. Miller caught two touch­down passes in the win against the Ea­gles, in­clud­ing a jug­gling grab in the end zone. His sec­ond touch­down catch put Ben­tonville ahead 21-14 with un­der three min­utes to play.

He then helped the Tigers reach the tour­na­ment fi­nals with a scor­ing grab against Bixby with 6 min­utes, 30 sec­onds to play, putting Ben­tonville ahead 20-12.

Miller is able to make big plays out of the back­field and at re­ceiver, Grant said. With de­fenses at­ten­tion fo­cused on re­ceiver Kam’ron Mays-Hunt, Miller could be a dif­fer­ence maker this fall for Ben­tonville.

Bixby (Okla.) staff takes cau­tion with re­ceiver

Through­out the day, play­ers and coaches searched for the metal tubs of ice wa­ter set along the home side­line at Cham­pi­ons Sta­dium.

Many dipped their faces or the top of their heads in the ice-cold wa­ter to cool down fol­low­ing games. Bixby’s Eric Cal­ton-Watkins took it a step fur­ther. The re­ceiver was or­dered to sit in the tub for five min­utes af­ter men­tion of sick­ness and feel­ing light­headed, a Bixby as­sis­tant coach said. He did not play in the Spar­tans’ fi­nal three games.

Cal­ton- Watkins was also seen sit­ting in a lawn chair be­neath the home bleach­ers with three fans cool­ing him down. Bixby fell to Ben­tonville in the tour­na­ment fi­nals.

Fan­ning the flames of a bud­ding ri­valry

The Ben­tonville-Bixby tour­na­ment fi­nals matchup pro­vided some­what of a pre­view for the teams’ week 2 matchup in Ok­la­homa.

But one thing the Satur­day evening matchup cer­tainly catered was an­tic­i­pa­tion for the show­down this fall. Play­ers on both sides ex­changed one- lin­ers through­out. “Y’all bet­ter be ready for pads,” one Bixby player shouted fol­low­ing Ben­tonville’s 21-18 win.

“Peo­ple are al­ready doubt­ing us,” Tigers re­ceiver Mays-Hunt said. “We fig­ured we’d just come out and wake them up.”

Ben­tonville grabbed a high-scor­ing 44-34 win over the Spar­tans in Week 2 last sea­son at Tiger Sta­dium. The 7A-West’s top re­ceiver al­ready has an idea what the Sept. 8 meet­ing will be like.

“I feel like it will be a real phys­i­cal game,” Mays-Hunt said. “We beat them at our place last year.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

Shiloh Chris­tian quar­ter­back Eli Reece makes a pass Satur­day dur­ing the an­nual South­west Elite 7-on-7 tour­na­ment at Shiloh Chris­tian.

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