The 2019 season for the Benton Junior High Panthers at home and saw both the Freshman and 8th Grade teams cough up second half leads against Pulaski Academy. The Freshman Panthers fell 20-14 while the 8th Grade Panthers lost 36-26.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Freshman Panthers dented the scoreboard first when Will Pompeo blitzed the Bruin defense for a 43-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Lucas Wilbur booted the extra point to give Benton a 7-0 lead just 49 seconds into the second quarter.
PA answered with a 9-play, 61-yard drive that culminated in an 8-yard, third-and-goal touchdown pass from Davis Halsell to Tyson McCarroll. The two-point conversion try failed when Panther linebacker Tanner Turner stuffed Jett Smith short of the goal line.
Panther defensive back Logan Hope intercepted a PA pass in the Benton end zone to end the first half and send Benton to the halftime locker room leading 7-6.
PA’s first snap of the second half resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Turner. Two plays later, the Panthers cashed in on a punishing 10-yard touchdown run by Donovan Pearson. Wilbur’s extra point gave Benton a 14-6 lead with 4:12 remaining in the third quarter.
The teams traded possessions before PA mounted a 5-play, 61-yard drive culminated by Parker Lane’s 5-yard touchdown run. The two-point try again failed and Benton led 14-12 with 4:15 left in the ballgame.
Following the score, PA recovered an onside kick at their own 49-yard line. It took just one play for Kel Busby to find Will Hawkins alone behind the Benton secondary for a 51-yard touchdown pass. Busby and Hawkins hooked up for the two-point conversion to lift PA into the lead 20-14 on the strength of two touchdowns in just 30 seconds of game time.
The Panthers recovered the ensuing PA onside kick at midfield and reached the red zone at the Bruin 19-yard line, but three consecutive incomplete passes stalled the drive providing the Bruins with the win.
Benton quarterback Jack Woolbright completed 8 of 14 passes for 81 yards. Abe Rose (3 catches, 36 yards) and Justin Mitchem (3 catches, 32 yards) led the Panther receivers. On the ground, Pompeo netted 46 yards on just two carries.
Defensively, Turner led the Panther defense with five tackles, two tackles-for-loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.
The 8th grade Panthers also suffered a second half defeat. After leading 26-16 midway through the third quarter, the Bruins scored the final 20 points to win 36-26.
Jordan Burr recovered a PA fumble on the game’s opening possession. The Panthers made the turnover pay off when Kyron Wells scored on Benton’s first drive on a 4-yard touchdown run.
Jake Herbner intercepted a Bruin pass late in the first quarter that the Panthers again turned into points when Peyton McNeely threw a beautiful 30-yard touchdown pass to Colby Howard.
McNeely scored on a 31-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and completed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Christopher Barnard in the third quarter.
Both the Freshman and 8th Grade Panthers will travel to Conway next Thursday to take on Conway White in the first game of Central Arkansas Junior High Conference action. The 8th grade game will kick off at 5:30 with the Freshman game to follow.