The Benton Panthers picked up their fifth straight win on Friday night with a 38-19 win over Texarkana. The win improves Benton to 5-1 on the season and 3-0 in the 6-A West Conference and marks the sixth consecutive victory for the Panthers over the Razorbacks.
Senior cornerback DJ Sturgis got the Panthers off to an electrifying start when he returned the opening kickoff 48 yards to the Razorback 45-yard line. Six plays later, senior Beau Brewer scored on a 6-yard run to give Benton a 7-0 lead.
Benton’s next possession ended with a snap over punter Bryson Krebs that he downed at the Panther 3-yard line. Texarkana scored three plays later when sophomore quarterback Sean Foreback ran in the touchdown from a yard out. Patrick Cook’s extra point sailed wide left and Benton maintained the lead at 7-6.
The Panthers ensuing possession chewed up 83 yards in 14 plays (the first of four scoring drives for Benton of 11 plays or more). Sophomore Peyton Hudgins, making his first start at quarterback for Benton, completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to another sophomore, Gavin Wells for a 14-6 Panther lead with 1:26 remaining in the first quarter.
Texarkana crept back to within a point midway through the second quarter. The Panthers rolled the dice on a fourth-and-one at their own 42-yard line, but the Razorback defense held. Seven plays later, Foreback found Drake Browning for a 12-yard touchdown pass to cut Benton’s lead to 14-13.
Benton’s senior free safety Blake Smith recovered a Texarkana fumble at the Razorback 13-yard line with 4:05 remaining in the first half. Three plays later, Hudgins scored on a 3-yard run to give Benton a 21-13 lead at halftime.
The second half saw the Panther offense, specifically Zak Wallace and a strong offensive line, take control of the game. Benton scored on a long, back-to-back possessions in the third quarter, both courtesy of Wallace runs. The first was a 21-yard touchdown run at the 8:04 mark to cap a 12-play, 67-yard drive and the second a 6-yard run to finish an 11-play, 77-yard drive.
But Texarkana would get within two scores at 35-19 at the 1:17 mark of the third quarter when Foreback and Browning connected for their second touchdown, this time on a 34-yard pass.
Benton’s final score of the night came with 3:34 left in the game when Taylan Akdamar drilled a 23-yard field goal to close a 13-play, 74-yard drive.
The Panther defense held Texarkana’s athletic, speed-oriented offense to 221 yards on 56 snaps. In addition to Smith’s fumble recovery, Brewer and Sturgis intercepted passes to force Razorback turnovers. The Panther defense also recorded four sacks of Foreback and limited Texarkana to just three 3rd and 4th down conversions on 15 attempts.
Offensively, Wallace had another big night toting the football, rushing for 158 yards on 30 carries. Wallace now has 922 yards rushing through the season’s first six games and is averaging 8.3 yards per carry. In addition, Hudgins picked up 92 yards on the ground on 15 carries.
Hudgins completed 13 of 26 passes for 137 yards. Wells (4-48), Peyton Pallette (3-45), Michael Allison (3-17), Wallace (2-18) and Clayton Maertens (1-9) all caught passes.
And, the contribution of new kickoff man Garrett Eason cannot be understated. With speedy Arkansas Razorback recruit Irijah Price returning kicks for Texarkana, Eason boomed four of seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. The Panther kick coverage, thanks to Eason’s booming kickoffs, limited Texarkana to just 39 return yards in the game.
Next Friday, Benton goes back on the road to El Dorado to play the 5-1 Wildcats. El Dorado was victorious on Friday night over Sheridan, 49-14 and will enter the game with a 2-1 record in 6-A West action. Kickoff at Memorial Stadium in El Dorado will be at 7:00. For Panther fans unable to make the trip, live video stream will be available through Fidelity Local 6 at bentonpantherfootball.com and live radio broadcast will be offered on KHLR, FM 106.7. Pregame will begin at 6:30.