By Jim Gardner
Thirteen members of the 2017 Benton Panthers have been recognized by the coaches of the 6-A West and the Arkansas Activities Association with post-season awards. Beau Belcher, DJ Sturgis and Zak Wallace were named All State. Beau Brewer, Joshua George, Brock Morris, Blake Smith and Gavin Wells were named first-team All Conference. Michael Allison, Kyvin Carroll, Tristan Hutchinson, Cameron Ross and Jenson White were named second-team All Conference. Panther head coach Brad Harris was chosen by his peers as the 6-A West coach representative in next summer’s All Star game.
BEAU BELCHER – ALL STATE
Belcher, a two-year starter at offensive guard, anchored an offensive line that allowed the Panthers to rush for 2,434 yards and 39 rushing touchdowns. Belcher also received the Air Guard Scholar Athlete of the Week award presented by Hootens Arkansas Football.
DJ STURGIS – ALL STATE
Sturgis, a two-year starter at cornerback, led the Panthers with five interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Sturgis also recorded 32 tackles. Late in the season, Sturgis also played wide receiver and caught six passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns. In addition to being named to All State, Sturgis was also voted Best Defensive Back in the 6-A West.
ZAK WALLACE – ALL STATE
Wallace, a junior running back, led the Panther rushing attack. Wallace carried the ball 216 times for 1,431 yards and a team-leading 21 touchdowns. Wallace also caught 29 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown.
BEAU BREWER – ALL CONFERENCE 1ST TEAM
Brewer led the Panther defense with 91 tackles, including 11 tackles-for-loss, five sacks, four quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and three interceptions. Brewer also carried the ball 54 times for 259 yards and 14 touchdowns.
JOSHUA GEORGE – ALL CONFERENCE 1ST TEAM
George, a 6’3”, 285 lbs. junior, was the most versatile Panther offensive lineman. During the season, George gave significant playing time at his primary position left guard, but also contributed at center and tackle.
BROCK MORRIS – ALL CONFERENCE 1ST TEAM
Morris had a stellar senior season at weakside linebacker by racking up 90 tackles, nine tackles-for-loss, two sacks, and four quarterback hurries.
BLAKE SMITH – ALL CONFERENCE 1ST TEAM
Smith, who manned free safety for the Panther defense, finished his senior season with 82 tackles, one fumble recovery and two interceptions.
GAVIN WELLS – ALL CONFERENCE 1ST TEAM
Wells, the lone sophomore Panther named for a postseason award, was a very versatile asset in 2017. Wells led three different Panther quarterbacks by completing 67 of 103 passes for 907 yards. Wells passes for eight touchdowns. As a receiver, Wells caught 32 passes for 423 yards and three touchdowns. Wells also rushed 69 times for 293 yards and two touchdowns.
MICHAEL ALLISON – ALL CONFERENCE 2nd TEAM
Allison, a first-time starter in his junior year, led all Panther receivers with 40 catches for 507 yards and three touchdowns. Allison also returned six punts for 47 yards, including a long return of 16 yards.
KYVIN CARROLL – ALL CONFERENCE 2nd TEAM
Carroll, a junior strongside linebacker, finished the season with 67 tackles with a team-leading 16 tackles-for-loss. Carroll also led the defense with six sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and fumble recoveries, one interception and a defensive touchdown.
TRISTIAN HUTCHINSON – ALL CONFERENCE 2nd TEAM
Hutchinson provided some electrifying kickoff returns for the Panther special teams. Hutchinson had 18 returns for 481 yards and two touchdowns, one of 83 yards and the other 86 yards. Hutchinison also started at cornerback and recorded 31 tackles, one interception and seven pass breakups.
CAMERON ROSS – ALL CONFERENCE 2nd TEAM
Ross, playing the spur position, had 85 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss and one sack. Ross also intercepted three passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
JENSON WHITE – ALL CONFERENCE 2nd TEAM
White, a 6’3”, 285 lbs. junior offensive tackle, played the very important blindside tackle spot for the Panthers. White’s play helped both the Panther rush and pass game to a season average of 384.7 yards per game.
BRAD HARRIS – 6A WEST COACH
Harris, in his second year as the head coach of Benton football, has led the Panthers to 15 wins. The 15 wins ties Harris for second all-time (tied with Tom Hardin, 1959-1960) for the most wins by a head coach in his first two seasons.