North Little Rock nearly pulled off the improbable Friday night.
The Charging Wildcats were down 24-6 to Fayetteville early in the fourth quarter, and any hopes of reaching the championship game were quickly slipping away. But, with the help of a few big plays and the mounting support of a home crowd, NLR righted the ship and began quickly chipping away at the lead. With about 30 seconds left, North Little Rock converted a two-point play to push ahead 28-27 and cap a stunning 22-3 run in less than 10 minutes. The miraculous comeback neared completion.
Yet, even more improbably, a central Arkansas team was poised to win a semifinal game in the state’s largest classification – something that hasn’t happened in eight years. Moreover, since 2006, every 7A title game has featured northwest Arkansas teams.
North Little Rock’s successful reversal of the trend was not be to be.
The Fayetteville Bulldogs returned NLR’s ensuing kickoff to their own 42 yard line, then completed two passes for 37 yards to set up a game-winning 38-yard field goal.
And so, just like that, the 2004 Little Rock Central Tigers remain the last central Arkansas high school to not only win a state title in the largest classification, but even play for one at War Memorial Stadium.
Since then, in the playoffs, NWA teams are 26-10 against central Arkansas teams.
Here are the results from the last two rounds:
Springdale 54, West Memphis 20
Springdale 49, LR Catholic 14
West Memphis 17, FS Northside 14 OT
FS Southside 23, Rogers 22
FS Southside 40, NLR 34 2 OT
Rogers 35, Fayetteville 26
Fayetteville 28, Springdale Har-Ber 7
Fayetteville 24, Bentonville 7
Springdale Har-Ber 47, Russellville 23
Bentonville 32, FS Southside 20
Bentonville 27, Russellville 0
FS Southside 8, Springdale Har-Ber 7
Springdale Har-Ber 27, FS Southside 6
Springdale Har-Ber 14, Cabot 10
FS Southside 24, NLR 23
Bentonville 49, Fayetteville 28
Bentonville 49, Springdale Har-Ber 20
Fayetteville 24, FS Southside 21
Fayetteville 29, Bentonville 28 OT
Fayetteville 23, FS Southside 20
Bentonville 31, NLR 7
Fayetteville vs Bentonville
Fayetteville 30, North Little Rock 28
Bentonville 28, FS Southside 21
After the game, I spoke to Jamie Washington, an assistant football coach at Little Rock Fair, about why central Arkansas teams have so drastically fallen behind their NWA counterparts.