Column: 'The Sports Trail': Carroll County Super Bowl match-up really a toss-up this year

Thursday, September 14, 2006

by David McNeal

Boy, oh boy, it's already here. THE GAME!

The annual clash for football supremacy here in Carroll County is coming seven weeks early this year, thanks to the new classifications of schools by the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA).

The annual battle between the Berryville Bobcats and Green Forest Tigers has traditionally been the last game of the season, a highly anticipated event by both towns and teams. Having that game waiting all season long has been good for both programs.

No matter how good or bad a year the teams are having, this is the one that counts. Lose all your games but win that last one, as Berryville did last year, and pride and bragging rights will carry you through to the next season.

Lose it, and the weight of all those who have gone before and played in THE GAME will weigh heavily on young consciences all summer.

Then came the monkey wrench. The AAA reclassified schools according to student population in seven divisions instead of the traditional five. That put Berryville in the 1 4A conference, while Green Forest stayed in the 1-3A conference.

Teams get three open dates for non-conference opponents, then play the conference schedule. No way for the two schools to play the last game, but the third playing date, Sept. 15, was worked out.

So, what's the line on this one?

That's the key, the lines. Both squads have big, strong linemen on both sides of the ball. Berryville stuffed Pea Ridge's famed Dead-T running attack last Friday night in a 23-6 victory, and Green Forest pulled out several big defensive stops against Yellville-Summit to defeat them 10-6.

But it's not all about the defenses. Those big linemen also play on the offensive side and create big holes for running backs.

Both teams have shown they can put up points, Berryville with 23 this past week, and Green Forest with 27 against Reeds Springs, Mo., in week one.

Running game? The Tigers run the Wishbone, while Berryville runs a Power-I attack. But both spread the field some and aren't afraid to pass.

Running backs? Nehemias Lopez from Berryville has had more than 100 yards of offense in both games -- 167 total with returns and rushing against Reeds Springs, and 159 yards on 23 carries against Pea Ridge.

Tigers John Asbury and Caleb Goodman had runs of 60 and 69 yards respectively against Yellville that resulted in touchdowns, and senior Tyler Watson has been a solid workhorse on the ground and is a reliable pass receiver.

Neither team especially looks to pass, but when the Tigers needed it to catch up with Reeds Spring, quarterback John Asbury went 11 of 16 for 121 yards. Berryville's Stevin Williams also runs and passes and was 3 of 5 for 37 key yards against Pea Ridge, plus he rushed for 47 yards.

You might think an edge can be found in the coaches. Tiger mentor Bill Gotto is starting his 31st year at Green Forest, his 21st as head coach, and he has more than 100 wins. Bobcat coach Bobby Bishop is in his first season as head coach and has one win.

But Bishop played for Coach Gotto in high school and coached against him as an assistant for 10 years. An edge? I don't see it. What I see is a toss-up, won by the team with the least mistakes.

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