The old adage in football is that it is tough to beat the same team twice in one season. That proved partially right on Thursday night at Everett Field.
In a rematch of week six, Benton Junior High hosted Cabot South. The Benton Freshman avenged a week six loss (6-0) to Cabot South with a thrilling, come-from-behind win, 12-7. The Benton 8th grade shrugged off conventional wisdom and romped Cabot South 44-0, after defeating them in week six, 42-7.
The Freshman Panthers (5-4, 4-2) trailed at halftime 7-0. Cabot South took the lead in the second quarter on a three-yard run by Ross Baxter and PAT by Gavin Reardon.
With 51 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Benton cornerback Colby Howard picked off a Cabot pass. The Panthers would make Cabot pay on a 5-play, 57-yard drive punctuated by a Howard touchdown reception of eight yards. With 6:48 remaining in the game, Benton’s two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, leaving Benton behind 7-6.
The Panther defense forced a three-and-out and, following the punt, the offense went to work. Peyton McNeely rushed for two yards and McNeely passed to Howard for five yards. Following an offside penalty on Cabot, Barnard rushed for five yards, McNeely for two yards before McNeely found Howard for a 54-yard touchdown pass. The two-point try failed, but Benton had captured the lead 12-7.
Cabot picked up two first downs on their ensuing possession before Barnard picked off a Cabot pass to seal the victory.
Benton’s pass defense was outstanding, limiting Cabot to just four yards passing (1 for 12) with two interceptions. Alvin Allen led Benton’s defense with eight tackles, including two tackles-for-loss. Jake Herbner added five tackles.
Offensively, McNeely was 10 of 15 passing with Howard catching five passes for 111 yards.
The Freshman Panther will conclude their season on Tuesday at Bryant (9-0, 7-0). The Hornets secured the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference championship on Thursday with a 41-9 win at Conway White.
The 8th grade Panthers had no trouble with Cabot South in Thursday night’s opening game, improving their season record to a spotless 8-0 overall, 7-0 in CAJHC games.
One key to the Panthers unbeaten season has been the stellar, consistent play of the offensive line. Parker Glaze, Isaiah Gipson, Aidan Laster, Broc Mattox and Gabriel McElyea have anchored a line that has been extraordinary blocking for an explosive run game and protecting the quarterback in the pass game.
That O-line led the Panthers to their first score on a methodical drive to open the game. O’Marcus King capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. Maddox Davis passed to Sam Shelton for the conversion and an 8-0 Benton lead.
The O-line helped usher King into the end zone a second time on a 6-yard run. Davis hit Julius Stinson on a slant pass for the conversion and a 16-0 lead with 5:59 left in the second quarter.
Shelton intercepted a Cabot pass with 1:08 left in the first half that Benton quickly turned into points. King took a screen pass from Davis and scampered 23 yards for a 22-0 lead.
It appeared that would hold as the halftime score, but on the final play of the first half, Stinson intercepted a Cabot Hail Mary pass and returned it 97 yards for a pick-six touchdown. King ran in the conversion for a 30-0 Benton halftime lead.
After a scoreless third quarter, Benton faced a fourth-and-goal at the Cabot 18-yard line in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Davis connected with Quentin Godley on a touchdown pass and a 36-0 Panther lead.
James Smith put a lid on the Benton win with a 42-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter and J. Thomas Pepper ran in the conversion on a nifty run for the 44-0 win.
The 8th Grade Panthers will conclude their season on Tuesday at 5:30 at Hornet Stadium against the Bryant White Hornets.