It is pretty easy to say that the Benton Panthers have been anything but good during the football season over the past few years. After winning three games in each of the last two seasons, Benton has been battling injury after injury, day after day. To add insult to injury, the Panthers were forced to give up its three wins from the 2010 campaign after eligibility issues arose.
Last season, the Panthers started the year off with the annual Salt Bowl at War Memorial Stadium against its biggest school rival and county foe, Bryant. Picked to lose by a wide margin, the Panthers, then healthy, stayed side-by-side and lost late by a single touchdown 21-14. The Panthers did pick up wins during the season, three in fact, against Jacksonville 44-14 in week two, McClellan 57-49 in week eight and Fair 50-30 in the final regular season game.
A year that was thought by many to be a good one at the beginning, quickly turned south after a slew of injuries plagued the Panthers including quarterback woes and defensive aches and pains. But now 2011 is in the past and 2012 is here in full force and the Panthers, along with head coach Scott Neathery, are out to prove that this year is a totally different season; a season they can be competitive and that they are a much better than a 3-8 team from a year ago.
Benton opens its season once again at War Memorial but not against Bryant. Due to a conference switch-up, Benton and Bryant will face each other in the Salt Bowl in Week 4 in a game that actually has more meaning than just bragging rights. Instead, Benton will face off against the Arkadelphia Badgers, a team that finished last season with a 4-7 record.
The Badgers bring an inexperienced team into week one with the same hopes as Benton—winning. Benton, on the other hand, has a ton of experience returning, especially in running back Wallace Foote and quarterback Terek Beaugard, two Panthers that were keys for the team on offense a season ago. But, can Benton pull out of War Memorial with a win? Can the team stay healthy for a full four quarters and will the defense get down and hit someone.
While the literal answer will be determined on Tuesday, I feel that Benton has enough weapons on both sides of the ball to get past Arkadelphia and start the season off with a bang and hopefully at least knock the monkey that’s on its back down to the lower leg area.
With Beaugard and Foote standing as big threats to run the ball, there should be more plays on the ground than through the air for Benton. Another advantage that Benton has on Arkadelphia other than experience is that the Panthers have played in War Memorial plenty of times so they know what it feels like to get out of the high school atmosphere. That could play into a turning point for the Panthers.
But one thing that could hinder both teams is the fact that game time is at 5 p.m. and not 7. The heat could force more substitutions on both sides of the ball for both teams than each coach may like. Staying hydrated will be a factor for both squads as well.
Needless to say, with all of that stuff aside, football season is back in full swing and Tuesday night’s showdown should be a fun one to watch.
I’m taking Benton to win by two touchdowns, 37-23. Go Panthers!