For the second time in a week, the Benton Panthers played in War Memorial Stadium. And the second time was a charm as the Panthers defeated the Parkview Patriots Friday night 39-25. The win got a monkey off the Panthers’ back as it had been 16 consecutive games dating back to 2005 since Benton had won at War Memorial Stadium.
Benton received the opening kickoff and marched 63 yards in 5 plays in just 1:13. Zak Wallace scored the first of his three touchdowns in the game on a 6-yard run to give the Panthers an early 6-0 lead.
36 second later, Cameron Ross picked off a Patriot pass and returned it 26 yards. A two-point conversion attempt failed and Benton led 12-0 less than 2:00 into the contest.
The Panthers extended the lead to 18-0 with 3:46 remaining in the first quarter when Wallace scored on a 1-yard run.
In addition to Ross’s interception, the Panther defense forced two other Patriot turnovers in the first quarter. Ty Neathery forced a fumble that Robert Langford recovered and D.J. Sturgis intercepted a pass.
The Panthers and Patriots traded scores throughout the second quarter with four touchdowns coming in the final 2:16 of the first half. Parkview’s Zach Smith scored on a 1-yard run midway through the second quarter to cut Benton’s lead to 18-7.
Wallace capped off an 11-play, 88-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, but Parkview responded on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Gearry Allmon to Hadley.Tristan Hutchinson returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards to lift Benton to a 32-13 lead. But the Patriots answered with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Allmon to Keaton Richardson on the final snap of the half to narrow Benton’s halftime lead to 32-19.
Parkview scored in the third quarter on an 11-yard run by Trevon Hadley to narrow the margin to 32-25 and was driving for a potential game-tying score before senior outside linebacker Beau Brewer made a fourth-down stop.
The Panther defense forced a fourth Patriot turnover in the final period when sophomore linebacker Bryce Golleher picked off an Allmon pass. After a Neathery sack of Allmon deep in Patriot territory forced a punt, Brewer scored the final touchdown of the game with 1:00 remaining in the game on a 28-yard run to set the final score at 39-25.
“That was a tough, hard-earned win,” Panther head coach Brad Harris said following the victory. “The good thing about it is we did make some plays at the end when it was a 7-point game, which helped set up a touchdown from a defensive standpoint. Hopefully we can build off of that. When our back was against the wall, we made a few plays.”
Panther junior quarterback Colen Morrow had an efficient night throwing the football, completing 21 of 25 passes for 206 yards. Morrow has not thrown an interception through the season’s first two games.
“That’s all we can ask for out of our quarterback – take care of the football,” Harris said. “Colen has done a good job two weeks in. He’s taking care of the football in the passing game, we just have to get him a little better there. That will come with time. Their tough defense brought a lot of pressure and were very quick. Overall, I thought he did a good job doing the things we need him to do.”
“We’ll get there. We have a lot of work to do. We’re not a good team, yet. We’re a young team that will hopefully get better each week. I don’t know if we got better this week, but we got a W and that’s the most important thing.”
The Panthers, now 1-1 on the season, hit the road again next Friday to face the Greenbrier Panthers. The game between the maroon-clad Panthers and blue-clad Panthers will kickoff at 7:00. For Benton fans unable to attend, the game will broadcast live on FM 106.7 The Ride (radio) and on bentonpantherfootball.com (video stream) courtesy of Fidelity Local 6. Pregame will begin at 6:30.
(Tony Lenahan, Sports Editor of The Saline Courier, contributed to this article).