On a rain-soaked Friday night at C.W. Lewis Stadium, 66 young men suited up in the maroon and gray of Benton. Sixty-six young men represented themselves, their high school, their families, and the entire Benton community with class. Sixty-six young men gave their heart and soul in an effort to secure a win for the Panthers. Though the Panthers came up a bit short on the scoreboard, the entire community of Benton has reason to be proud of the Panthers and their effort.
Visiting Greenbrier, winners of nine games each of the last three years and currently ranked No. 6 in Class 5-A, defeated the hometown Panthers 23-13.
“I was proud of our team’s effort tonight,” Panther Head Coach Scott Neathery said following the game. “We played a great team tonight – a team that won at Texarkana last week – and our guys fought hard the entire night.”
Greenbrier’s second possession of the game began at the Panther 23-yard line following a penalty on a punt return. Greenbrier scored on their fifth play from scrimmage when Gerrell Williamson took a Seth Peters pass 12 yards for the touchdown. Samuel Burchfield converted the PAT giving Greenbrier a 7-0 lead with 8:00 left in the first quarter.
Benton responded with a sparkling 71-yard drive on just four plays. Wallace Foote broke off a big 32-yard gain on the drive. Terek Beaugard scored on an option keep from 21 yards out, aided by some stellar blocking on the edge by Cole Glover, J.V. Davis and Boone Cox. Tanner Westpheling converted the PAT to tie the score at the 6:33 mark in the first quarter.
Greenbrier quickly responded with a 70-yard drive on just five plays. Peters connected with Kevin Reynolds on a 4-yard pass for the touchdown. Burchfield’s PAT gave Greenbrier a 14-7 lead.
Greenbrier scored again with 4:04 left in the second quarter on a 13-play, 69-yard drive that consumed 3:52 off the clock. Peters carried in from 3 yards out for the score. Burchfield’s PAT gave Greenbrier a 21-7 lead going into the half.
The second half, played in a steady rain, began with Benton receiving the kickoff. The Panthers marched 61 yards on nine plays, capped off when Foote scored from 2 yards. The extra point snap was bobbled, leaving Greenbrier in front 21-13.
Greenbrier’s ensuing possession ended at the Panther 37-yard line when Glover batted away a Peters’ fourth down pass. The Panthers would drive to the Greenbrier 35-yard line before Beaugard was intercepted.
The teams continued to trade possessions until a Benton fourth-down punt attempt was snapped through the end zone resulting in a safety completing the scoring for the night.
“We’re frustrated,” Panther coach Scott Neathery admitted after the game. “Our defense played so well tonight. They competed and gave all they had. Greenbrier’s got a high-powered offense and I was very proud of the way all eleven guys on our defense played.”
“Offensively, we just couldn’t catch a break with field position. The game is about field position and eliminating turnovers.” Unfortunately for the Panthers, four turnovers were more than they could overcome.
Foote had another outstanding game, leading the Panther rushing attack with 94 yards on 17 carries. Foote was forced into playing both ways due to an injury to Ryan Rodriguez during practice.
The Panther defense was led Friday night by Collin Simmons and Samonte Wallace with 11 tackles each. Carson Holloway had 10 tackles, Glover added nine tackles and Connor Henningson had seven tackles. Wallace (two sacks), Henningson (one sack) and Jeffrey Hodge (one sack) applied pressure on Peters, the Greenbrier quarterback, throughout the game. Foote recorded an interception and a fumble recovery caused by a Holloway tackle.
The Panthers return to action next Friday night against arch-rival Bryant in the annual Salt Bowl. The game will be played at War Memorial Stadium and will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.