The Benton Freshman Panthers broke open a tie game at halftime, outscoring Conway Blue 20-0 in the second half, to win 33-13 on Thursday night. The win improves Benton’s season record to 4-2 overall, 3-2 in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference.
Benton averaged just under 10 yards per carry, rushing 29 times for 289 yards. Michael Jefferson paced the Panthers on the ground with 127 yards on 13 carries while Kyree Watkins (7 carries, 87 yards) and Trevor Standridge (6 carries, 68 yards) also had big nights rushing for the Panthers.
Jefferson appeared to score on an 87-yard touchdown run on Benton’s third play from scrimmage, but a holding penalty against the Panthers wiped out the score and Benton would be forced to punt.
Three plays following the punt, Justin Walker forced a fumble that Hayden Purdy scooped up and raced 65 yards for a touchdown. Bryan Araujo’s extra point gave Benton a 7-0 lead with 3:42 left in the first quarter.
Conway answered with a 9-play, 59-yard drive that consumed 4:50 Donovan Nooner scored from 1-yard out, but Araujo tackled Conway quarterback Michael Hardaway on the two-point try to leave Benton ahead by one, 7-6.
The Panthers answered the Conway score with a long, time-consuming touchdown drive of their own. It took Benton 10 plays to cover 56 yards in 4:55 with Jefferson scoring on a 7 yard pass from Standridge. Araujo’s extra point sailed wide left and Benton’s lead was 13-6.
Conway struck again before the end of the first half with Hardaway found Dylan Silverman in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Irvin Medina’s extra point knotted the score at 13.
Benton drove inside the red zone to end the first half, reaching the Conway 9-yard line thanks to a 41-yard scamper by Standridge. But back-to-back incompletions ended the half and the teams went to their halftime locker rooms tied at 13.
During the half, Panther coaches Blake Dorsey, Josh Brown, Jon George and Garrett Parker determined that Benton’s big offensive line (Cade Brimhall, Tyler Cochran, Garrett Davis, Coby Reeves and Justin Walker) would be the difference in the second half.
After Jefferson returned the second half kickoff 31 yards to set up Benton at the Conway 49-yard line, the Panthers took just four plays, all on the ground, to score. Jefferson finished the drive with a 19-yard touchdown and ran in the two-point conversion to give Benton the lead 21-13.
After forcing a Conway three-and-out, Benton regained possession at their own 39-yard line and again drove to the end zone entirely on the ground behind the offensive line. Jefferson once again found paydirt, this time on a 22-yard run. The two-point conversion failed, but Benton led 27-13 with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
Panther cornerback Trey Beeson would intercept Conway passes on the next two Wampus Cat possessions. Following Beeson’s second interception, Garrett Brown found Kyree Watkins alone in the center of the field for a 27-yard touchdown and a 33-13 lead.
In addition to the big plays on defense by Beeson, Purdy and Walker, Anthony Neloms also forced a Wampus Cat fumble that Amari Bernard recovered for the Panthers. Zac Feimster, Joseph Pelton and Walker all recorded quarterback sacks for Benton’s defense.
The Freshman Panthers will be back in action next Thursday evening against the Catholic Rockets at Roy Davis Field in Little Rock. Kickoff will be at 6:00.
The 8th grade Panthers improved to 5-1 on the season by crushing Conway Blue 42-8.
Casey Johnson scored on Benton’s opening drive on a one-yard plunge. Cameron Harris caught a two-point conversion pass from Gianni Vannucci for an early 8-0 lead.
Vannucci found Harris on Benton’s next drive for a 19-yard touchdown pass. Then, Vannucci connected with Andre Lane on a 19-yard pass and a 20-0 Benton lead at the end of the first quarter.
Benton continued the onslaught in the second quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Vannucci to Harris, a 43-yard touchdown pass from Vannucci to Beau Wright and a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown by Wright. Vannucci and Cain Simmons had two-point conversion runs to give Benton a 42-0 lead at halftime.
In addition to Wright’s interception, Gage Ashilintubbi had two interceptions for the 8th grade Panther defense.
The 8th Grade Panthers have an open date next Thursday and will return to action on Thursday, October 19 when they will host Russellville at 5:30.