Former ri­vals form spe­cial bond at UA

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - SCOTTIE BORDE­LON

FAYET­TEVILLE — The Fayet­teville-Ben­tonville High matchup is ar­guably the most an­tic­i­pated of the high school foot­ball sea­son statewide, as it de­liv­ers mem­o­rable mo­ments on an an­nual ba­sis.

Ten com­bined state cham­pi­onships since 2001 and tra­di­tion on both sides speak for them­selves. And, more of­ten than not, over the last decade the schools have bat­tled one an­other for con­fer­ence and state supremacy.

But from the state’s most fierce ri­valry bloomed an un­ex­pected friend­ship in the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville, tight ends room. Former Tiger Jack Kraus and former Fayet­teville star Cheyenne O’Grady are among those bat­tling for play­ing time at the po­si­tion this sea­son. But they al­ways take time out to bring up mem­o­ries from their prep days.

“He’ll al­ways make a smart com­ment like, ‘Yeah, that was when my team won a state cham­pi­onship,’ or some­thing like that, and I’ll do the same thing,” said O’Grady, a fourstar re­cruit out of high school. “That comes up all the time.”

Nei­ther can say they fore­saw a con­ven­tional con­nec­tion on the hori­zon when they joined the pro­gram, but their bond ex­tends be­yond prac­tice and foot­ball re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. It isn’t un­com­mon for the two to hang out on week­ends, Kraus said. They also got the op­por­tu­nity to speak to more than 100 chil­dren at Ben­tonville’s Tigers in Train­ing pro­gram in July.

Ra­zor­backs tight ends coach Barry Lun­ney Jr., who coached Kraus along­side his father, Barry Lun­ney Sr., at Ben­tonville, says the former ri­vals have a unique re­la­tion­ship.

“They’re big bud­dies now. I’m not so sure they’re not the clos­est in the group,” he said. “They seemed to have formed a spe­cial bond with each other. Jack has been a re­ally good in­flu­ence on C.J. over­all with work ethic and just be­ing a tight end here.

“And of course there’s (high school) ban­ter back and forth. It’s all in fun. It rears its head ev­ery now and then, but it’s good to see their re­la­tion­ship.”

As a se­nior in 2013, Kraus played a role in Ben­tonville’s fourth state cham­pi­onship, a 39-28 win against Cabot. The fol­low­ing year, the Tigers re­peated as state cham­pi­ons. In his ca­reer, Kraus’ squad was 3-2 against Fayet­teville and 36-4 over­all.

“The best part was that I got there my sopho­more year and lost to Fayet­teville twice in a row, but my se­nior year we were able to win it against Cabot,” he said. “That was prob­a­bly one of the best feel­ings I’ve ever had.”

O’Grady got an early taste of vic­tory against the Tigers in 2012 as Fayet­teville got the bet­ter of Ben­tonville 31-20 in the state cham­pi­onship be­hind stars Austin Allen and former Ra­zor­back Brooks El­lis. But in 2014, O’Grady and the Bull­dogs fell to Ben­tonville in Lit­tle Rock.

Kraus and O’Grady both vividly re­mem­ber the ex­cite­ment and uproar sur­round­ing the ri­valry. Noth­ing com­pared to the days lead­ing up to the teams meet­ing on Fri­day night with brag­ging rights on the line, they said.

“Ev­ery week when you play Fayet­teville its def­i­nitely in­tense,” said Kraus, who com­mit­ted to Arkansas fol­low­ing his ju­nior sea­son. “It was chaos that week be­cause we hated each other in high school. It was a big ri­valry. The whole week was crazy and there was so much buildup.”

“We prepped all year for them,” O’Grady added. “That was like the most im­por­tant game for us to win be­cause it seems like it’s al­ways those play­ing for a state cham­pi­onship. It al­ways goes back and forth and it’s al­ways been a very im­por­tant game.”

Fayet­teville and Ben­tonville are two of the more sto­ried pro­grams in Arkansas in re­cent his­tory, and nei­ther Kraus nor O’Grady will al­low the other to for­get. En­dur­ing mo­ments from the schools’ meet­ings are likely in the com­ing months, and with­out ques­tion will be dis­cussed flip­pantly in Arkansas’ tight ends room.

“The last two years we’ve got­ten re­ally close,” said O’Grady, a sopho­more. “(The friend­ship) is some­thing you wouldn’t re­ally ex­pect com­ing out of high school and how we thought of each other. But we’re re­ally good friends now.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE

Ra­zor­back tight ends Jack Kraus (left) of Ben­tonville and Cheyenne O’Grady of Fayet­teville have de­vel­oped a bond af­ter play­ing on op­po­site sides in a sto­ried high school ri­valry.

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