PERFECTION PERSONIFIED: Bryant beats Benton for 27th straight

Bryant freshman Xavier Foote scores one of his two touchdowns of the night in a 27-12 Bryant Freshman Hornets’ win over the Benton Jr. Panthers Tuesday in Benton. Foote finished with 78 yards on four carries in the win, which is Bryant’s 27th in a row. The Fr. Hornets have won two Central Arkansas Junior High Conference titles in a row.  RICK NATION/Special to The Saline Courier
Jim Gardner
Special to The Saline Courier

On a cold, rainy Halloween night in Benton, the Bryant Freshman Hornets completed a second consecutive 10-0 season with a 27-12 win over the Benton Freshman Panthers in Benton. The win marked the Hornets 27th win in a row and secured the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference championship. The Panthers finish the 2017 season 7-3 overall, 6-3 in conference.
The outcome, though, was very much in doubt early in the fourth quarter. After Benton’s Kyree Watkins scored on a 1-yard plunge with 7:49 remaining in the game, Benton trailed Bryant just 15-12.
Three plays into Bryant’s ensuing drive, Miles Aldridge fumbled on a hard hit by Watkins and Benton’s Tristan Hawkins recovered the fumble at the Panther 45-yard line with 6:54 remaining.
But, Benton was unable to cash in on the gift. Watkins ran on first down for no gain. Panther quarterback Garrett Brown was sacked by Bryant linebacker Hart Penfield for a loss of 13 yards and, on third-and-23, Brown threw incomplete. Down 3 points and facing a fourth-and-23, Benton head coach Blake Dorsey elected to punt and Hayden Purdy boomed a 37-yarder to pin Bryant back at their own 31-yard line.
It took the Hornets just three plays to add to their lead. Xavier Foote ran for 5 yards, quarterback Austin Ledbetter scrambled for 24 yards, then on the third play of the drive, Foote broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown run and a 21-12 lead.
The Panther kick return was muffed allowing Bryant to recover a loose ball at the Panther 36. Five plays later, Foote found the end zone again on a 26-yard scamper to set the final score at 27-12.
“We kind of let it get away from us there at the end, but I’m very proud of the fight in our team (Tuesday),” Benton Head Coach Blake Dorsey said following the game. “We came in wanting to keep it away from their explosive offense and were able to do that. Our offensive line and ground game was strong tonight. We competed well and I’m proud of my team.”
Benton received the opening kickoff and marched to the Bryant 27-yard line before the Hornet defense ended the possession on downs.