Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com
When the 114th Battle of the Bulldogs commences at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Harmon Field, it’s likely to be a stat keeper’s nightmare.
Two of the most dynamic players in the Class 7A-West and their prolific offenses will be on display in Fayetteville quarterback Mitch Marshall and Springdale running back Deandre Murray.
Both breeds of Bulldogs are averaging more than 30 points a game, and the play of Marshall and Murray is the catalyst for their respective teams.
In four games, Marshall, a Purple Bulldog senior, has thrown for 906 yards and 11 touchdowns and completed 61 percent of his passes against only 1 interception.
“I think some were counting Fayetteville as down because they don’t have an Allen at quarterback this year,” said Springdale head coach Shane Patrick, referring to Brandon and Austin Allen, who combined to quarterback Fayetteville to two state titles and a runner-up finish and are each playing for Arkansas. “But Marshall is fine player, too. He doesn’t look like a first-year starter. He’s done a great job for them. He’s well coached, and Coach Patton and Coach [Zac] Clark have done a nice job of tailoring the offense to what he does best.”
In the Bulldogs’ mercy-rule, 45-21 victory over Van Buren, Marshall bombed the Pointers for 325 yards passing and four touchdowns in the first-half before taking the rest of the night off. He had touchdown throws of 52, 66 and 77 yards to Jordan Dennis, Terrell Tyson and C.J. O’Grady.
“He’s got good receivers around him with speed and size and he uses them well. That O’Grady is a matchup problem for anybody,” Patrick said.
Patton said Marshall did a nice job of getting the ball to his playmakers.
Fayetteville (4-0, 1-0) vs. Springdale (3-1, 1-0)
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday Oct. 4, 2013
Location: Harmon Field
“We have some tall receivers that can create some match-up problems,” Patton said. “Mitch got the ball to them. There’s no one better than Jordan Dennis at going up and getting the ball, and C.J. is great at it to. We do some things with play action to try to get one-on-one coverage, and when we get it, we’re going to try to take advantage. If we need a jump ball, those guys can go get it.”
Likewise, opponents have had difficulty getting a hand on Springdale’s Murray, who rolled up 312 yards on 18 carries against Rogers for a 17.3 ypc average.
In four games, Murray, a senior, has already rushed for more than 800 yards and 12 touchdowns. Seven of those scores have come on runs of 20 or more yards.
In Springdale’s 32-28 victory over Rogers last week, the 6-0, 182-pound back, whom Arkansas is looking at as a cornerback, ripped off runs of 77, 65 and 45 yards.
“What’s Murray rushing for, about 700 yards a game,” Patton said. “It looks like it on film. He’s a phenomenal back. We are going to have our hands full with him.
“We’ve got to be gap strong and stay in our lanes. We can’t be overly aggressive because he’s a great cutback runner. When a team overpursues, he cuts back and comes out the back door.
“If you’re playing the backside, hey, just hang loose because he’ll be coming back too you.”
Patrick can’t say enough about his senior star.
“Deandre is just a dynamic, dynamic athlete,” Patrick said. “He’s extremely fast and so agile. He moves laterally about as well as anyone I’ve been around. He’s so elusive.”
But, Murray isn’t just a speed back.
“He runs with power, too,” Patrick said. “He shows it on two or three plays a game, and you just think, ‘whoa.’”
The Red Bulldogs broke out the Wildcat formation against Rogers to greater utilize Murray’s skills.
“It’s something we had been working on and thought conference play was the right time to use it,” Patrick said. “It’s just another way to get the ball in Deandre’s hands.”
Much of Murray’s success has come because of the work of the Red Bulldogs up front.
“Our offensive line has done a great job for us this year,” Patrick said. “That can’t be said enough. They’ve done a great job of giving Deandre holes and creases, and our backside blocking has been good, too. You don’t see that many big plays without your blockers doing a god job.”
Patrick said his Red Bulldogs are excited to meet their rivals to the south.
“This is a meaningful game for all involved,” Patrick said. “There is a lot of pride on the line, and it’s an important game for our players, the school and the community. It’s not the end-all and be-all. No one game is. But it is big.”
Patton has asked his Purple Bulldogs to throw caution into the wind, just as he does every year for the Springdale game.
“Most of the time we want our kids calm, cool and collected for a ballgame,” Patton said. “Not this week. We want them to play with enthusiasm and just let that emotion feed them.
“There’s only one Battle of the Bulldogs in the state. It’s a huge game. It’s always circled. They lead the series by quite a bit. Until we catch up, it’s always going to be important.”
Patton said the Purple Bulldogs have been building up to this game, which is the midpoint of the regular season.
“Every week we’ve made improvement,” Patton said. “Now when you get to a game like this, you can throw out records and everything else. There is no such thing as a pretty win. It’s going to be a battle — just a four-quarter knockdown, drag-out affair with one team standing at the end.
“It may not be pretty, but our ultimate goal at 10:30 p.m. Friday night is to be 2-0 in conference.”
Fayetteville will likely be without running backs Brayden Cook and Terrell Tyler against Springdale. Patton said Javontee Smith, Nico Suarez and Luke Rapert will combine to fill the running backs spot against the Red Bulldogs.
2013 FHS Football Schedule
Sept. 2 – Fayetteville 35, Warren 21 at Razorback Stadium
Sept. 13 – Fayetteville 34, Jeff City 24
Sept. 20 – Fayetteville 27, Muskogee 22 at Muskogee
Sept. 27 – Fayetteville 45, Van Buren 21 at Van Buren
Oct. 4 – Springdale, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 – at Rogers Heritage, 7:30. p.m.
Oct. 18 – Rogers, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 – at Siloam Springs, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 – at Har-Ber, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 – at Bentonville, 7:30 p.m.