The injury bug has bitten the Benton Freshman team this season and, with key players missing on both sides of the ball, the Panthers dropped a 30-14 game on Thursday night at North Little Rock.
The Charging Wildcats took a 14-0 in the first quarter on touchdown runs of 67 and 62 yards.
Benton bounced back midway through the first quarter when Donovan Pearson scored on a 48-yard run. Lucas Wilbur’s extra point cut the first quarter score in half at 14-7.
North Little Rock responded with a bruising 15-play, 74-yard drive, all on the ground. The Benton defense stiffened in the red zone and forced a 28-yard field goal that gave North Little Rock a 17-7 lead. The Charging Wildcats scored again at the 1:28 mark of the second quarter to take a 24-7 halftime lead.
The lead swelled to 30-7 in the third quarter on a 26-yard touchdown run by Roshawn Simmons.
Benton’s final touchdown came with 5:45 remaining in the game when Pearson hit pay dirt again, this time from 10 yards to finish a 6-play, 53-yard touchdown drive.
Pearson finished the night by going over 100 yards for the second consecutive game (19 carries, 131 yards). Jack Woolbright completed four passes for 43 yards with Abe Rose hauling in three passes for 34 yards.
For the Panther defense, Jake Jones and Tanner Turner led the way with seven tackles.
Meanwhile, the Benton 8th grade shutout North Little Rock 34-0. An aggressive Panther defense forced five North Little Rock turnovers in the shutout victory.
Chris Barnard got Benton on the board on the game’s opening drive with a 32-yard touchdown run.
On North Little Rock’s first play from scrimmage, Keandre Boson recovered a fumble that led to Barnard’s second touchdown on a run of eight yards and a 12-0 Panther lead.
North Little Rock’s first snap on their second possession also resulted in a turnover when Demarcus Moore forced a fumble that Colby Howard recovered. Benton quarterback Peyton McNeely made the Charging Wildcats pay when he waltzed into the end zone untouched from 15 yards to give Benton an 18-0 lead after one quarter.
In the opening minute of the second quarter, Khristian Turner picked off a North Little Rock pass. On Benton’s ensuing drive, Barnard converted a fourth-and-nine with a 29 yard run and finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Turner ran in the conversion to push the Panther lead to 26-0.
McNeely put Benton’s final points on the board in the third quarter on a 21-yard run and a two-point play run.
Howard intercepted a pass and Moore recovered a fumble to complete the dominating defensive effort by the 8th grade Panthers.
Both Benton Junior High teams return home next week to face Conway Blue. The 8th grade (4-1, 4-0) will kick off at 5:30 with the Freshman (1-4, 1-3) to follow.