The Benton Freshman Panthers bounced back after two tough losses to get a 20-8 win over Alma on Thursday night at Everett Field. The Panthers were originally scheduled to play at LR Central, but due to Covid concerns at Central, the Tigers opted not to play this week. Benton Coach Matt McBride found a willing opponent in Alma who was scheduled to play Pea Ridge but had that game canceled due to Covid concerns at Pea Ridge.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Benton (4-4, 3-2) got on the board on the first play of the second quarter when Chris Barnard scored on a 7-yard run. Peyton McNeely ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 Panther lead.
Alma responded after recovering a Benton onside kick. The Airedales took four plays to cover 50 yards with Ian Rhoades scoring on a one-yard plunge. Jackson Daily passed to Drake Stogsdill for the two-point conversion for an 8-8 tie that stood until halftime.
The Benton defense was stellar on Thursday, limiting the Airedales to just two first downs and none after the 5:34 mark of the second quarter.
With 5:58 remaining in the fourth quarter, Benton regained the lead for good on a 29-yard pass from McNeely to Colby Howard for a 14-8 lead.
The Panthers added to their lead with 2:22 left on a one-yard run from McNeely.
Benton outgained Alma 210 to 67 in total yards. Barnard led the Panthers on the ground with 71 yards on 11 carried. McNeely completed 9 of 11 passes for 99 yards with Barnard (42 yards) and Howard (34 yards) leading Benton’s receivers.
Defensively, McNeely led the Panthers with four tackles, three tackles-for-loss, and a quarterback sack. Barnard and Alvin Allen contributed three tackles each.
The Freshman Panthers will get an opportunity to avenge a week six, non-conference loss to Cabot South (6-0) next Thursday at Everett Field. Cabot South will come in licking their wounds after suffering a 49-19 loss at home to Bryant.
In Thursday night’s opener, Benton’s 8th grade hosted the Bryant Blue Hornets. Both teams came into the game with spotless 6-0 records.
The Panthers received the opening kickoff and took just five plays to score. O’Marcus King raced 31 yards for a touchdown and ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 Benton lead.
The Hornets answered on a five-play drive of their own that covered 53 yards. Bryant quarterback Jordan Walker punched in a one-yard run, but a two-point conversion pass failed leaving Benton ahead 8-6.
Benton immediately answered on the first play of their next possession when Elias Payne took a handoff and scored on a 67-yard jaunt. The two-point conversion was stuffed by Bryant’s E.J. Keith and Benton led 14-6.
The Hornets tied the game with 1:49 remaining in the first half when Carter Ratliff intercepted a Benton pass and returned it 60 yards for a pick-six. Jaysean Robinson ran in the conversion to tie the score at 14-all.
Bryant received the kickoff to open the second half and took the lead on a four-play drive. Robinson broke four tackles on his way to a 25-yard touchdown. Jonathan Frost caught a conversion pass in traffic from Walker to give Bryant a 22-14 lead which stood through the end of the quarter.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, the Hornets faced a fourth-and-one at their own 49-yard line. Parker Glaze stuffed a Robinson run to give Benton the ball in Hornet territory.
Benton took advantage. On the sixth play of the ensuing drive, Payne scored on a five yard run and converted the two-point play on another run to tie the game at 22 with 3:50 remaining.
On the fifth play of Bryant’s next possession, Walker was picked off by Panther cornerback Julius Stinson who returned it 38 yards to the Bryant 42-yard line. Benton quarterback Maddox Davis found Quentin Godley alone over the middle for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 0:58 seconds remaining. Payne ran in the conversion to give Benton a 30-22 lead.
Frost returned the kickoff following the Panther score 25 yards to the Bryant 48-yard line. But on first down, Walker’s pass was intercepted by Godley at the Benton 32-yard line. The Panthers took a knee on the game’s final play to secure the win.
Payne was the game’s leading rusher with 139 yards on 12 carries and led the Panthers defensively with four tackles.
Both Benton Junior High teams will be back in action next Thursday at home. Cabot South will pay the Panthers a visit in a Central Arkansas Junior High Conference tilt. The 8th grade game will kickoff at 5:30 with the Freshman game to follow.