FAYETTEVILLE — The quest for a third consecutive Class 7A state football championship kicked off for Fayetteville on Monday, and just as expected the Bulldogs faced a serious fight.
Warren, the top-ranked team in Class 4A, proved to be more than a worthy opponent for the Bulldogs at the Simmons First/Hootens.com Kickoff Classic. But as tough as the Lumberjacks were, it was big plays by Fayetteville that made the difference in a 35-21 Bulldogs win at Razorback Stadium.
“It was a good first win and a lot of things went into it,” Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton said. “The special teams had to make some plays, the defense had to bend a little bit on some plays near the goal line, and offensively, I thought we ran the ball really well and Mitch Marshall made some nice throws.”
Fayetteville turned to special teams right from the start, recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff and getting a 91-yard punt return touchdown from Dre Greenlaw to help build breathing room.
The Bulldogs leaned on the passing game, with Marshall hooking up with junior tight end C.J. O’Grady for two touchdowns.
“I’m proud of my kids, I really am,” Warren coach Bo Hembree said. “We gave it all we had and we did some good things. But when it was 28-21 there in the fourth quarter, we were worn out.”
The Bulldogs only outgained Warren, 356 to 351 in total yards. A bigger difference in the game was turnovers, as the Lumberjacks committed three to Fayetteville’s none.
Warren quarterback Drake Jones was the biggest problem for the Fayetteville defense all night. Jones rushed for 116 yards on 14 carries and passed for another 166 yards and one touchdown before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with an injury.