“It was JUST like it,” Brad Bolding, North Little Rock’s head football coach, said last week at the Landers Award presentation. Bolding’s senior tailback, Altee Tenpenny, was among the finalists for the award, which was won by Greenwood do-everything-star Drew Morgan.
To recap the games, Atlanta saw a 27-7 lead evaporate with Seattle scoring the tying touchdown and added the PAT for a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds to go. But the Seahawks gave up a 30-yard kickoff return, t hen two pass completions by Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, to set up a game-winning field goal.
Replace the name Matt Ryan with Austin Allen (another Landers Award finalist) and you pretty much have the scenario for Fayetteville’s miraculous last-second win at North Little Rock Stadium, a victory that propelled the Bulldogs into the state final against 7A-West rival Bentonville. Fayetteville won 24-14.
Against the Charging Wildcats, just as Atlanta must have felt against Seattle, the Bulldogs held a 27-14 lead before the home team mounted a gallant last-quarter rally to take the lead. Then the Bulldogs took it right back with a decent kick return, two pass completions by Allen and a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Starr on the final play.
“We all really felt the state championship was decided that night,” Bolding said. Unfortunately for the fans of high school football, it only got the hype of a semifinal playoff game, instead of being played in spacious War Memorial Stadium on a Saturday night, as the only game on tap.
Atlanta, of course, was not so lucky this past Sunday, letting a 17-0 first-half lead get away in a 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship and a birth in the Super Bowl.
TENPENNY AND TIDE: Yes, Altee Tenpenny really did lead a hog call at the Catfish Hole on the west side of Fayetteville on Friday night, with 11 other Razorback recruits on hand for their official visits.
Tenpenny said after the weekend visit that he had a good time in Fayetteville, but most recruiting observers expect the 6-1, 200-pound running back to honor his original commitment to two-time defending national champ Alabama on signing day, Feb. 6, at the North Little Rock campus gymnasium.
WARREN TAKES ON ALL-COMERS: Give Coach Bo Hembree and the Warren Lumberjacks credit for never backing down to a challenge. They’ve played schools three classes larger in season-opening games before, and 2013 will be no exception. Warren will open the season at Razorback Stadium, playing defending 7A champion Fayetteville. Then, the Lumberjacks, last year’s 4A-8 winner and eventually eliminated by 4A champion Stuttgart in the quarterfinal round, will play Class 5A Pulaski Academy again.
At least Hembree and Warren will face a Fayetteville team rebuilding after losing three Razorback commitments — Austin Allen, Brooks Ellis and Alex Brignoni — and three-year starting running back Brice Gahagans. Warren will return rising junior Kelay Cox, who rushed for 1,500 yards and had more than 300 in the 2012 season opener against Shiloh Christian.
NO TO AUBURN: Last week, we reported that Drew Morgan had agreed to make a recruiting visit to Auburn even though he was committed to Brad Bielema and Arkansas. After his weekend trip to Fayetteville, Morgan said, the Auburn trip is off and he’ll definitely sign with the Hogs. “I told Coach Bielema that I was fully committed.”
NO FINEBAUM?: What are Alabama and Auburn fans — for that matter, SEC fans all around the South — to do with the news that Paul Finebaum and Birmingham, Ala., radio station WJOX-FM allowed Finebaum’s contract to expire.
He’s gone from WJOX — from the airwaves, from the station website where listeners could listen to the Finebaum stream daily, everywhere involving WJOX.
Sirius satellite radio also carries the Finebaum show, so for now they have nothing to broadcast.
The controversial sports talk radio host and columnist, who spoke last fall to the Little Rock Touchdown Club, is said to be likely to resurface at a rival Birmingham station. But Finebaum reportedly is also exploring all his options, including an offer from Sirius to originate his show instead of using an Alabama station.
Whatever he decides, al.com reported that Finebaum has a three-month non-compete clause with WJOX.
Hey, it’s basketball season anyway. It would really be radio chaos if this were the middle of football season and the fans had no Finebaum.