County bragging rights on the line

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Carroll County’s two high school football programs are both in rebuilding mode this season, with just three victories between them in 17 games.

But none of that matters this week. This week, the only thing that matters for the Berryville Bobcats and the Green Forest Tigers is the Carroll County Super Bowl. The big game will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday night at Tiger Stadium.

Green Forest (2-6, 1-5 4A-1) has improved dramatically under second-year head coach Greg Tibbitt, anchored by a solid defense that has held four opponents to 17 points or fewer.

“They’re huge on the line, and they’ve got athletes where they need ’em,” first-year Berryville coach Bryan Hutson said. “They’ve been in pretty much every game, except for a couple, kind of like us.”

Green Forest has gone 2-25 in conference play since moving up to Class 4A for the 2018 season, but one of those victories was an 18-12 win over Berryville in last season’s meeting. The other came two weeks ago when the Tigers scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns and beat Gravette 33-29 on their home field.

Senior halfback Trevor Stark had a 47-yard touchdown run in the win over Gravette, while running backs Fredy Juarez and Barrett Phillips also ran for TDs and junior quarterback Isaiah Fraga ran for 112 yards, including a 66-yard score. Defensively, junior free safety Ben Jones had 17 tackles against Gravette, while senior defensive back Navor Perez returned an interception 25 yards to set up a touchdown.

“They beat Gravette, who beat us,” Hutson said. “It’s at their place, so they’ll be sky-high to beat us. I’m new, but I understand this is a pretty big rivalry. I’m sure it will be a packed house. It will be fun.”

Berryville has gone 1-8 overall and 0-6 in conference play under Hutson. Those numbers don’t tell the full story, however, as the Bobcats have scored at least 20 points in six of those games — including a 34-21 loss to conference powerhouse Prairie Grove last week after Berryville led 14-7 at halftime. The Bobcats feature a 1,000-yard rusher in senior Jaeden Tanksley and a breakaway running threat in junior Tun Oo. Turnovers have been an issue for Berryville, but Tibbitt is wary of the Bobcats’ offensive potential.

“Tanksley is a big running back,” Tibbitt said. “He’s a good running back. He runs the ball really hard. And then they bring (Oo) in there and he’s big, strong and fast. So they have a one-two punch, for sure, running the football. Their offense is, I would say, ahead of ours right now. They’ve done a good job up front and they execute really well with what they try to do.”

Controlling Berryville’s running game is critical for Green Forest, Tibbitt said.

“We’ve got to tackle Tanksley in the open field and try to smother their running game,” Tibbitt said. “Not allow any big plays. But we’ve got to be more consistent offensively. If we can put points on the board, I think our defense will allow us to win the game.”

Berryville’s offense has been plagued by turnovers all season, even as the Bobcats’ effort has earned them consistent praise from opposing coaches. Hutson expects that same kind of effort on Friday.

“We’ve played hard all year long, so I don’t think anything’s going to happen differently on Friday,” he said. “I think we’ll come out and play hard. If we play as hard as we did last Friday, then that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

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