The Benton Freshman Panthers got off to a hot start, withstood a fourth quarter momentum shift, and defeated the Little Rock Catholic Rockets 28-17 on Thursday at Roy Davis Field in Little Rock. The win snaps a four-game losing streak for the Panthers and improves the season record to 2-5 overall, 2-4 in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference.
Benton had their best game of the season at the line of scrimmage, dominating the Rockets up front. Benton rushed for 261 yards and limited Catholic to just 40 yards on the ground.
Brody Blanton returned the opening kickoff 39 yards to set the Panthers up at midfield. It took Benton just eight plays, all on the ground with runs from Jamarius Morgan and Donovan Pearson, to score when Pearson reached the end zone on a two-yard run. Lucas Wilbur converted the first of his four extra points in the game to give Benton a 7-0 lead.
The Benton defense dominated Catholic up front on their first possession. Walker Davis and Jacob Munns stuffed runs for losses of one and three yards before Hunter Goodwin sacked the Catholic quarterback for a six-yard loss.
Following a Catholic punt, the Panthers took six plays to travel 47 yards. Again the entire drive came via the run with Morgan scoring on a 21-yard run on the second play of the second quarter to give Benton a 14-0 lead.
Benton defensive back Perverious Perkins picked off a Catholic pass at the Panther 10-yard line on the next Rocket possession and returned it 10 yards to the 20. Eight plays later, Benton was in the end zone again. Pearson took a handoff from Jack Woolbright and pin-balled his way to the five, before bulling his way into the end zone for a 21-0 lead.
Panther defensive lineman Elijah Harris would get a sack on third down to force a Rocket punt on the next possession and the teams went to halftime with Benton leading 21-0.
Catholic would get a field goal to open the second half to cut the Panther lead to 21-3 but Blanton returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to put Benton ahead 28-3.
The Rockets were able to score twice in the fourth quarter to narrow the Panther victory.
The Panthers outgained the Rockets 290-166 in total offense. Benton was efficient offensively, converting six of nine times on third down.
The dual threat of Pearson (13 carries, 154 yards) and Morgan (11 carries, 86 yards) propelled the Panther offense.
Defensively, linebacker Jake Jones led Benton with six tackles, including three tackles-for-loss. Walker Davis added five tackles and a tackle-for-loss while Goodwin added four tackles and two tackles-for-loss.
The 5-1, 5-0 8th grade Panthers had an open date this week.
Both Benton Junior High teams are back in action next Thursday evening at home. The 8th grade Panthers will host the Bethel Hornets while the Freshman will tangle with the Little Rock Central Tigers. The 8th grade game will kick off at 5:30 with the Freshman game to follow.