The Benton Junior High Panthers got their first taste of life in new stadium and the outcome was as sparkling as their new home. The freshmen Panthers defeated Sheridan 21-12 and the Benton eight graders won 40-20.
The freshmen Panthers got off to an inauspicious start. Sheridan recovered an onside kick to open the game. The Benton defense stiffened, forcing Sheridan to line up to punt on fourth down. But a fake by McKinley Williams resulted in a 52 yard touchdown for the Yellowjackets. The two-point conversion try failed, but Sheridan led early 6-0.
The teams traded possessions before Benton got into the end zone midway through the second quarter. Panther quarterback Preston Stone completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Coltyn Lane. Matt Warrick’s PAT was good and the Panthers led 7-6 at halftime.
Sheridan’s big-play offense struck again on the opening drive of the second half. Williams covered all 58 yards on the two-play drive for the Yellowjacket touchdown. Again, the Panther defense held on the two-point try, leaving Sheridan ahead 12-7.
But the Panthers would win courtesy of the game’s final two scores. Later in the third quarter, Nate Beck, substituting for an injured Stone, found Trey Pepper for a 19-yard touchdown pass. Warrick’s PAT was again good to push the Panthers back in front 14-12. Benton sealed the win in the fourth quarter when Brandon Hunter scored on a 58-yard touchdown run. Warrick’s third and final PAT of the night gave the Panthers a 21-12 lead which they held until the final gun.
Stone was 1 of 5 passing for 24 yards. Beck was 3 of 3 for 24 yards. Hunter led the Panther ground attack with 126 yards on 11 carries. Ty Callahan added 50 yards on nine carries. Braylon Alcorn rushed 6 times for 36 yards. The Panther ground game finished the night with 246 total yards on 33 carries.
Dawson Morris, the Panther middle linebacker, led the defense with 10 tackles, one tackle for loss (11 yards) and one sack (7 yards).
The eighth-grade Panthers got their season off to a rousing start with a 40-20 win over the Sheridan eighth graders. Beau Brewer scored the Panther first touchdown of the season on a 60-yard run. Benton’s lead moved to 12-0 when Drew Chilton connected with Jordan Witcher on a 9-yard touchdown pass. After Sheridan scored to close the gap to 12-8, Bryson Krebs rumbled for a 46-yard touchdown. Chilton passed to Brewer to give the Panthers a 20-8 lead. Chilton would score again before halftime on an 8-yard run and convert the PAT to give the Panthers a 27-8 halftime lead.
The teams traded scores in the second half with Benton’s scores coming on a Chilton 49-yard run and a Tristian Hutchinson 38-yard run.
Both the eighth grade and freshmen Panthers return to action next Thursday evening in Conway against the Conway White Wampus Cats. The eighth-grade game will kick off at 5:30 p.m. with the freshmen game to follow.