Behind 318 all-purpose yards and 6 touchdowns from Michael Jefferson, the Benton Freshman Panthers defeated the Conway White Wampus Cats 47-34 on Thursday night at John McConnell Stadium in Conway. The win improves the Freshman Panthers to 2-0 on the season.
Jefferson rushed the ball 9 times for 148 yards, caught 7 passes for 104 yards, and returned 3 kickoffs for 66 yards. In addition to his six touchdowns, he ran in a two-point conversion in the third quarter.
The Benton offense was dominating. The Panthers scored on seven of ten drives, two of which ended with the conclusion of the second and fourth quarters. Benton only snapped the ball on third down three times and converted all three and never had to punt during the game. The Panther offense rolled up 441 total yards on 39 snaps (315 rushing, 126 passing).
“I can’t say enough about our offensive line,” head coach Blake Dorsey said after the win. “Our guys up front just completely controlled the line of scrimmage. Cade Brimhall, Tyler Cochran, Garrett Davis, Coby Reeves and Justin Walker opened mammoth holes throughout the game for the Benton running attack.
In addition to Jefferson’s gaudy numbers, Trevor Standridge had 9 carries for 114 yards.
The Panthers scored on their opening possession, going 57 yards in 4 plays. Jefferson scored on a 31-yard touchdown reception from Garrett Brown and Bryan Araujo’s extra point gave Benton a 7-0 lead.
Jefferson would score on a run of 61 yards and on catches of 12 yards and 1 yard on passes from Standridge to give Benton a 27-14 halftime lead.
Conway closed the scored to 27-21 by scoring on their first drive of the second half. But the Panthers answered right back with a 55-yard, 5-play drive capped by a Standridge to Jefferson touchdown pass of 33 yards and a 35-21 lead.
Following a Conway score to narrow the Benton lead to 35-27, the Panthers again responded with a 3-play, 54-yard drive. Standridge scored on a 16-yard run. Jefferson completed the scoring for Benton with a 7-yard run with 3:42 remaining in the game.
Defensively, Benton was led by Hayden Purdy’s five tackles. Joseph Pelton and Walker had sacks for the Benton defense. Preston Barker recovered a fumble for Benton on special teams.
The Benton 8th graders also improved to 2-0 on the season with a come-from-behind, 32-20 win over Conway White. Gianni Vannucci scored three touchdowns on runs to lead the Panthers. The Panthers trailed 20-18 going into the fourth quarter, but Cameron Harris scored on a 32-yard run with 3:15 remaining in the game to complete an 85-yard touchdown drive. Vannucci iced the game for the Panthers with a 26-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left. Both fourth quarter touchdowns came following fourth down stops by the Panther defense. Casey Johnson scored the other Benton touchdown in the second quarter on a 5-yard run.
Both junior high teams are on the road again next week against the Cabot North Panthers in Central Arkansas Junior High conference action. The 8th grade game kicks off at 5:30 with the freshman game to follow. For Panther fans unable to make it to Cabot, a live video stream of the games will be available on bentonpantherfootball.com courtesy of Fidelity Local 6.