Evin Demirel: Bentonville vs Trinity – David vs Goliath

Bentonville vs Trinity Is Arkansas vs. Texas

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Tonight, a behemoth from the Arkansas prep football version of the SEC takes on the nation’s prep football version of the SEC.

Bentonville, unquestionably at the head of class among Arkansas’ most successful 7A high school football programs, defends its turf against Euless Trinity – which in recent years consistently dominated Texas high school football’s largest classification and is regarded as one of the most physically imposing teams in the nation. At 7 p.m. tonight, in Bentonville, two different storylines will kick off – a game that improbably seems to be equal parts Clash of the Titans and David vs. Goliath.

Since Barry Lunney Sr. arrived in 2005 as Bentonville’s head football coach, the program has risen to challenge the likes of Fayetteville as Arkansas’ best high school team. Lunney’s Tigers won state titles in 2008 and 2010 and have captured an unprecedented six straight titles in the 7A/6A West – a conference which like the SEC has dominated the championship game in recent years. Euless Trinity is best known to Arkansans for mauling the Kiehl Frazier-led Shiloh Christian Saints in 2010 by a score of 80-26. Trinity, which consistently shows up in Top 20 national polls,  won Texas state titles in 2005, 2007 and 2009. In other seasons in the 2004-10 range it lost to the eventual state champion.

Bentonville is coming off a close loss to an Oklahoma powerhouse (Broken Arrow) but hasn’t lost two straight games at its Tiger Stadium since 2005. The Tigers will be looking to bounce back strong tonight, but so will Trinity – which lost its last two games against an Oklahoma powerhouse (Jenks) and Texas’ DeSoto High, which may be the best team in the nation this year. Still, even in those losses, Euless flashed a fearsome – at times unstoppable – ground attack off the strength of a roster with 11 running backs and outstanding depth on the line.

It’s hard to imagine, though, that this game will mean more to Euless than Bentonville. For Euless, this is just another out-of-state game in which it’s widely viewed as the favorite. For Bentonville, it’s a chance to prove the best in this state can hang with the best in the biggest and baddest prep football state of them all. As a few commenters on the message board fearlessfridays.com have noted this game’s significance extends far beyond Benton County.

Bentonville has already proven its a regional power by regularly beating top teams from Oklahoma, Mississippi and Missouri. But if it can beat a true Texas powerhouse* it will prove it’s a national power. And, by extension, that Arkansas prep football has truly arrived.

*Yes, I know the Tigers already handled Texas High in Texarkana, Texas. Nope, that school is not at the same level as DeSoto or Euless.

The Euless-Bentonville thread on fearlessfridays.com has more than 1,500 comments. I’ve chosen excerpts from some of the best ones to give you a preview of the game itself, and what it means in terms that go well beyond football:

The name at top is the commenter’s user name, followed by the date.  The comments below have not been fact checked.

TigerDad2013, 8.26.13

“All the talk last year was that Bentonville had bitten more than it could chew for its [out-of-conference] schedule.  One win at best.  Well, the Tigers went 3-0 and none of the games were really that close.  Spanked big bad Panola 41-6 and back-ups played the last 1 1/2 quarters.  The Tigers will not be intimidated by Trinity, or any other team.  Lunney, much like he did at [Southside], has established a winning program.  They expect to win EVERY game.  There are some definite holes to fill.  There are every year.  I wont begin to roll off a bunch of stats because the stats don’t measure heart.

I freakin hate Texas football.  I grew up a Razorback fan, and hate the color burnt orange.  This is very personal for me, as it should be for any Arkansas football fan.  You are from Texas. You ARE the enemy.  Lunney will have them ready.  Y’all do your little “hooka dance”, or whatever its called and then give us your best shot.  Don’t be surprised if your drive home is a long one.  Just sayin!!!!!!”

Valleysports, 8.13.13

“Arkansawer’s aren’t taught state pride, like Texans, from an early age.  They don’t have history like the Alamo, live in the biggest state in the Lower 48, have pro teams to rally behind, or that “we don’t need your help” Lone Star Mentality.  One fourth of the state is beautiful, Clinton is from Arkansas (pride of some), Duck Hunting Capital of the World.  In the last 20yrs the state has been divided into Have’s and Have Not’s.  NW Arkansas being the Have’s, the rest of the state being the Have Not’s.  Bentonville’s success in HS sports, parallels their growth to a thousand more students than anyone else.  Other than envy, one thing that has caused the hatred, is some Bentonville Fans rubbing the noses of the Have Not’s in Bentonville’s new found success.  This might not be so bad, if SE Arkansas wasn’t absolutely coming unraveled economically as well as socially.  That’s just my unbiased observation.”

Razorback Red, 8.9. 13

“I do believe this game is much bigger for Bville than for [Euless Trinity].  ET should win, so it’s just another noncon game for them. To Bville (and all of HS football in AR) this game is much bigger.  We are trying to prove that AR football has improved and we can hang with a prominent TX program and National power.

Many on here like to bash the Tigers, and will enjoy it if we lose big, but hopefully deep inside they are all pulling for Bville to hang with ET and maybe even pull the upset”

Billyo62, 8.20.13

“IMO this will be the Test that Bentonville needs to pass if it wants to get Regional Respect.

Really, They have defeated Rockhurst, Broken Arrow, South Panola, Texas, Ft. Zum West and anyone from other states that will play them.  None of those teams are Trinity but they are as good as anyone in Arkansas. If they beat Trinity they will get national respect.”

Oparaque, 3.20.13

“No one from Bentonville is thinking this will be payback for Shiloh.  Shiloh’s seniors next school year were freshman in the ETHS/SCHS game of ’10.  No wise person from Bentonville is penciling this as a “W”, either.    There were, however, some of us who after watching BHS beat last season teams that were at one point #1 in Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas (with the latter beating us at season’s end, just like the year before) thought that it’s time for BHS to play a very good Texas team.  (We played a 7-4 Texas team with a Division I running/url] back and o-lineman in 2010 and dominated them, but Texarkana Texas High is to Euless Trinity as a Hostess Twinkie (takes my hat off in silence) is to a three-tiered wedding cake.) ….

FYI, we sort of had a common opponent last year – Union High out of Tulsa, OK.  You beat them by 3(?) points in D/FW (that was a Texas sweep over Oklahoma, as DeSoto smashed Jenks from that area that same day).  We beat them by 3 at their place, but that was in the big preseason scrimmage that BHS has participated in the past four years.  I know we had some backups in (our two TDs were scored by one of the aforementioned RBs – hope he’s healthy this season) as surely they did, also.  I know, though, that their coach likely wanted to win the game with us as much as he did the one vs. you.  Our score vs. them was something like 14-12 for a full half of play.”

Southpawsensation, 5,24,13

A lot of it may have to do with the difference in the rules. Texas plays under NCAA rules. Most states play under NFHS rules. The biggest differences are the varying width between the hashmarks, how kickoffs and punts into the end zones are handled, and when the defense is called for jumping offsides.

Texas,  5.24. 13

Those are all pretty minor. Here are the rule differences.


I don’t know why it does not say, but the NFHS rules are on the left and the NCAA rules are on the right side. Actually in many cases the NCAA rules are more restrictive than NFHS rules, so in some cases Trinity may not take advantage of some of the rules because of unfamiliarity of the rules. I think the coaches will focus more on preventing Trinity from breaking stricter NFHS rules than taking advantage of less strict NFHS rules.

The biggest difference especially for a running team like Trinity is blocking below the waist. Allowed in Texas, not allowed in most other states including AR. Last season, the [out of state] travel game was game 1, so the team had a few weeks to practice, then could get back to NCAA rules easily, since they are used to it. This season, the OOS travel game will be game 3, so play first two games with NCAA rules, then have to transition to NFHS rules. That may present a bit of a challenge. I honestly don’t think it will be that big a deal. We may get called for a few penalties, but I don’t think it will be enough to take us out of our game, so to speak.”

urhog 5.22.13

“The only thing I can say about the 7a is its a watered down conference. Outside of Bentonville and Fayetteville, that is it. Arkansas is too small to truly consider an anomaly school like bentonville to be king. The 7A central sucks. NLR has a glimmer of hope but can’t put it together. Then there is the dinosaurs at Cabot, the baseball players at Bryant, and the underachieving Conway. The 7a has the biggest classes but the lowest amount of competition in the state. That’s not their fault though. We are a SMALL state outside of NWA and central AR.

This will be a good gauge to see if they can compete with a real big boy TEXAS school. Where they play REAL big boy ball. IF Bentonville beats them, you will never hear me say a down thing about the 7a ever again. Until then, the 7A is the big fish in a little pond here in AR and the 7a is the little fish in the big pond of big time high school football.”

Texas, 3.27.13

“Trinity graduated a lot last year. QB and talented WR’s are gone. The big time DE’s and the starting DT’s are gone. RB by committee last year, but most were underclassman anyway. This will be the first season I can remember in a long time there is not at least one guy that we know is either returning after an excellent season before, or is set to have a breakout season. Closest I can think of is TE Will Taylor, who, as a soph, was soph of the year in our district. He will be a Senior. Remember the names Franklin and Ellsworth. Both are RB’s. Both are track fast. Burners. If they get past the LB’s, they are gone, no question. I see those two more as change of pace backs though, so they probably won’t have a lot of carries. There are a few other possibilities at RB that may emerge as go to guys that can be work horses. Otherwise, in general, at this point, the OL and secondary should be the two most promising units on the team.

Texas, 7.30.13

FYI: Several former and very recent Trojan players and a future Trojan player (Euless Jr High) were involved in a very serious auto accident early this morning. The story is not completely accurate. Only one person survived, though his injuries were not minor. Salesi Leka Uhatafe is in critical condition. All in all, four of five passengers died.    Polo, Gaius, Lolo and their Uncle Andrew all died. Leka fights on. All Tongans.

H.E.B. I.S.D. Posted a Memories and Reflections page on their website.

“As we mourn the loss of three members of our Trinity family, we invite you to use this page as a place to share thoughts about Gaius Vaenuku (THS Class of 2013), Polo Manukainiu (THS Class of 2012), and Lolo Uhatafe (Euless Junior High student), along with support for Salesi Uhatafe (THS Class of 2013).”

Texas, 8.22.13

I’m not predicting a specific score, but something along the lines of 28-7 or 28-14 sounds reasonable to me.

I said a few months ago (somewhere in this thread), you better hope Bentonville can pass enough to keep Trinity’s D honest and guessing, cause Trinity’s run D is the best in (5A) Texas. #1 or #2 in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense for the last three seasons. The passing defense is pretty close to the top as well (top 10). That’s why I would be surprised (putting it mildly) if Bentonville scores anywhere near 38. If they are over 30, I’ll eat crow.

Trinity94, 8.24.13

“The secret to Bentonville is very simple.  It is not able to be defeated with X’s and O’s.  It can only be beat by having more heart.  The secret is the players themselves.  The players are well coached and are SMART.  Late in each episode are interviews with the players.  Listen to them.  Those kids get it.  That is why they win.  They are SMART and do not beat themselves.  It is very impressive.”

Trinity 94, 8.26.13

“One issue that has not been brought up is that Trinity does not travel well.  Recently they have a strong history of traveling 3 or more hours and not really being “present” early in a game.  I have seen them work their way back and sometimes win those games, but not always.

Vs Permian they lost 30-3 in 2007 in the regular season.  They had 5 turnovers.  That was in Odessa.

vs Converse Judson in 2005 they were down 14-0 in the state championship before winning 28-14.  That was in Austin. vs Austin Westlake they were down 10 or 13 to nothing before winning in overtime in the state championship game.  That was in San Antonio. Last year vs Bellevue.  They were down 14-0 and lost in overtime 30-24.  That was in Washington.

Don’t be surprised if Trinity shows up and is not their normal selves for a while.”

Texas 9.14.13

There is no way Bennie is gonna line up and play smash mouth against Trinity for 4 quarters. They will have their moments, but few and far between. Trinity’s OL will wear down any opponent over the course of a long game. Bennie’s DL will not be able to do the same to Trinity’s DL, which is seven or eight players deep. In which they just keep rotating fresh bodies in every series.

[Broken Arrow] has nothing on Trinity’s running game. 108 yards against Bennie. Trinity may have that many yards by the end of the first quarter. I thought Bennie did a nice job of pursuit when BA tried to go wide. However, I saw some missed tackles. The ball carrier (sometimes) would bounce off a would be tackler, cause the defender was trying to deliver a blow to knock the ball carrier to the ground instead of wrap him up and take him to the ground.

Texas, 7.05.13

“The Dallas Morning News has made a pick for this game. No, insight or analysis, just a straight up pick and score prediction: Trinity 35 Bentonville 21  

There was also a public poll (now closed). 80.85% of respondents picked Trinity as compared to 19.15% picking Bentonville. That is weird. I can’t figure out how Bentonville got so many votes.   I’m sure a few Arkansans picked Bentonville. The rest must have been Trinity rival fans that voted against them cause they hate Trinity.”


No need to let the Dallas Morning News have all the fun. What do you predict the final score will be?

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