The Benton Freshman Panthers picked up their second consecutive Central Arkansas Junior High Conference win on Thursday night, blanking Conway Blue 39-0 at McConnell Stadium.
Following a three-and-out by the Panther defense on the game’s opening possession, Benton marched 87 yards in just five plays. Casey Johnson ripped off a big 59-yard run on the drive that was capped by Andre Lane’s 14-yard touchdown gallop.
Following another Conway three-and-out, Benton took five plays to score on a 61-yard drive. Cain Simmons caught a 42-yard pass from Gianni Vannucci on the drive with Vannucci scoring on a 3-yard run to give Benton a 12-0 lead after the first quarter.
Conway’s third straight three-and-out led to another Benton score, this one on a 69-yard, seven play drive. Benton converted a key third down on the drive when Vannucci passed to Simmons who pitched to Johnson on the hook-and-lateral play for 35 yards. Johnson scored on a 1-yard run and Vannucci ran in the two-point conversion to increase Benton’s lead to 20-0.
Beau Wright blocked a Conway punt with 21 seconds left in the first half to give the Panthers great field position on the Wampus Cat 38-yard line. Three plays later, on the final play of the first half, Vannucci found Brendan Burks wide open for a 28-yard touchdown and a 26-0 Panther lead at halftime.
Conway went three-and-out on their opening possession of the second half and the Panthers again had great field position at their own 49-yard line. Following a Johnson run of 15 yards, Vannucci raced 36 yards for a score and a 32-0 lead.
The Benton defense, which played great all game long by limiting Conway to just 23 total yards on 33 snaps, scored the final Panther touchdown when Vannucci forced a fumble that Andrew Armstrong returned 70 yards. Jada Hammett booted through the extra point to give Benton a 39-0 lead with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
In the final period, Benton’s Dakota Smart and Parker Stone recovered Conway fumbles to preserve the shutout.
Offensively, Johnson led a potent Panther ground attack with 103 yards rushing on just eight carries. Vannucci added 72 yards on six carries while Lane chipped in 33 yards on four carries. Vannucci completed 5 of 7 passes for 120 yards to five different receivers (Simmons 1-42; Johnson 1-35; Burks 1-28; Austin Phillips 1-9; Andrew Williamson 1-6).
Defensively, Tyler Smith led the Panthers with 9 tackles including 3 tackles-for-loss.
The victory improves the Panthers season record to 2-4 overall, 2-3 in the CAJHC. The Freshman Panthers return to action at home next Thursday against Little Rock Catholic at 6:00.
The 8th grade Panthers fell in the opener Thursday night 22-8. Jamarius Morgan had the lone Benton touchdown on a 13-yard run in the second quarter. Will Pompeo ran in the two-point conversion. Defensively, Walker Davis forced a Conway fumble that Logan Owen recovered. The 8th grade Panthers dropped to 1-4-1 on the season and will be have an open date next Thursday.