BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Bentonville West head football coach Bryan Pratt has never been afraid to open the season with a tough foe and 2022 is no different.
Pratt and the Wolverines will begin this year’s slate by hosting Tulsa Booker T. Washington and Arkansas wide receiver pledge Micha Tease Friday night at 7 p.m.
“I am a big guy on trying to make the first game a tough one and one for everybody to look forward to,” Pratt said Thursday morning. “Being from Oklahoma and knowing the strength that Booker T. Washington has had and how they probably have more NFL players from Booker T. Washington than any other school over there, including Seattle Seahawks wide receiver) Tyler Lockett, it’s going to be challenge.”
Tease (5-11, 180), a four-star wide receiver/defensive back prospect, had 31 catches for 618 yards and 9 touchdowns as a junior with 25 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Expected to play wide receiver for the Razorbacks, Tease took both an interception and a fumble return back for touchdowns last season and chose Arkansas over Oklahoma, Notre Dame, USC, Texas A&M and others.
“It’s no different this the receiver that is already committed to Arkansas,” Pratt said. “He is extremely explosive and it is a great test for us and helps us get ready for our tough 7A-West conference.
“You are going to have to make plays and we want to show our kids what it takes to be successful and we will work on it as we get ready to go into conference play.”
Bentonville West finished 6-5 last season, has eight starters back on offense and defense and had a school-record 114 players out for spring practice.
The Wolverines downed Fort Smith Northside 7-6 in a two-quarter scrimmage last week according to Pratt and will also host Cabot and travel to Little Rock Central before beginning 7A-West conference action at Fayetteville.
“We are really looking forward to this season because last year we didn’t have the season we wanted, but we also played a lot of really young kids,” Pratt said. “Three freshman and four sophomores started for us. Those guys are a whole lot different for us this year – bigger, stronger and faster because of the offseason and just maturity level overall.”
West returns a loaded offense that includes junior quarterback Jake Casey (2,394 yards and 21 touchdowns passing), a 1,000-yard rusher in Casey Morgan and receivers Ty Durham and Jaxson Burst, who combined for 79 catches for 1,170 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The offensive line returns huge junior all-state performer Layne Jeffcoat (6-9, 290). Morgan has five Division 1 offers and Jeffcoat three.
“Offensively, we have got all of our skill guys back,” Pratt said. “…Hopefully some people can step up and fill some holes and prove that we can play with the big boys.”
The top defenders returning are a couple of senior speedsters in linebacker and UCA commit Braden Jones (104 tackles) and all-state cornerback Nick Bell, who both have Division I offers.
Bell, the son of former Arkansas standout Geno Bell, had 40 tackles and also caused several turnovers that turned into touchdowns for him and his teammates.
He joins three-year starters Will Bates and Josh Buxton in the secondary, Tate West and Vincent Harris at linebacker and defensive linemen Grant Overman and Ashton Norman.
“All these guys have big-time experience,” Pratt said. “It gives us a lot of hope and excitement about this year.”