Remembering Salt Bowls past

No other football game has this type of atmosphere that the Salt Bowl has. This game is about friends who become foes for one day out of the year and then after the games are over, past bitter rivals enjoy a lifetime of friendships. I have had the opportunity to talk to many participants of past Salt Bowls and this article is a result of their input concerning the Salt Bowl rivalry.
Jim LaGrone, who did the Bryant Hornet Radio Broadcast with Rob Patrick for many past games commented that the series used to be dominated by Benton for years, but in recent years Bryant has been winning more than their fair share. He remembers especially the game in 1999 when the Hornets came in ranked No. 1 in the state and were attempting to break a 14-game winning streak by Benton which dated back to Bryant's last win which was Daryl Patton's senior year as quarterback in 1985. That night, LaGrone recalls over 12,000 people squeezing into C.W. Lewis Stadium and there were also way too many fans standing behind Rob and LaGrone in the press box while they broadcasting the game on the radio. Bryant won that game and broke the streak. 

Jimi D. Easterling, Bryant Class of 2010

"My fondest moment from playing in the Salt Bowl was in 2009 when I was walking through the tunnel onto the field and seeing the
stadium filled up with 26,000 people and that is something I will never forget."

Lee Richardson, Benton Class of 2010
"I grew up knowing numerous people from Bryant. Not just playing football against them since fourth grade, but also playing on the same baseball teams throughout the years. To me it was like a friendly rivalry. Saying that, I think it made us more bitter rivals being friends so you definitely wanted to beat them in everything you did. I also dated a girl or two from Bryant so yeah friendly rivalry, ha. To this day I still play college baseball with a few boys from Bryant and we are great friends. Even though being friends the past couple of weeks we have been talking about the approaching Salt Bowl and reliving the days we all played against each other and maybe a little trash talking here and there."

Landon Montgomery, Bryant Class of 2008

"I remember the Salt Bowl having almost a college game atmosphere. People who might not usually come to a regular season game came to watch the much-talked about rivalry. A lot of my senior class grew up playing ball together since elementary. We were a close lot and though we've moved off since high school we still have those close bonds made from childhood. I remember Jake Jackson making an all out diving catch our senior year. I also remember Zach Sanders being robbed of a fumble return for a touchdown my sophomore year."

Jordan Knight, Bryant Class of 2008
"I can compare it to nothing because I have experienced nothing like the Salt Bowl. This event is an entity entirely separated from any other in high school football. I am currently coaching at Red Oak High School, in Red Oak, Texas, and nothing here can compare to it. Walking out of the tunnel in War Memorial Stadium for pregame warm-ups and seeing 25,000 - 30,000 people in the stands split between maroon and royal blue will make your heart beat in ways you never knew it could. Hearing the roar from the home fans when you stop Benton on fourth down and the sighs from the Panther fans is something that I will never forget. Sixteen to 18-year old kids around the nation do not get to experience many moments where the state comes to a halt in order to capture such a beautiful moment that pits two cities against one another. These moments I will cherish and take with me throughout life."

Anthony Mask, Bryant Class of 2006
"The friendships add fuel to the fire because we grow up with the people who are on the other side of the football."

Aaron Calvin, Benton Class of 2006

"There's not any other High School football game in this state and arguably the nation like the Salt Bowl. The electricity the fans
provide, the energy from the band and cheerleaders, as well, inspire you to play your absolute best. Each team could finish the year with a winning or losing record, but the team's overall success for the season is based off the outcome of the Salt Bowl. If there was a Super Bowl for those in high school the Salt Bowl would be it. I have a lot of friends from Bryant that I played against like Anthony Mask and Aaron Walker, but during the season we didn't talk much at all. The week leading up to the Salt Bowl, both sides had an unwritten law that it was forbidden to talk to anyone from the opposing side. They understood that and we did as well. Afterwards however, whoever won the game had bragging rights for a whole year and made sure to rub it in the loser's face. One play that comes to mind was the punt block we had against them my senior year which enabled us to win the game 14-7. I may or may not have needed to be on the field. And we may or may not have had more than 12 players out there but it is what it is.Bryant may have won the last couple of Salt Bowls, but my senior year we did in fact beat them twice in one year. One more thing Go Panthers; beat the Hornets. Bring the trophy back home where it belongs."

Hunter Hatcher, Bryant Class of 2006
"One memory of the 2005 salt bowl is when Bryant was backed up near their own end zone and were forced to punt. On the fourth-down play, Benton had 13 players on the field. They easily blocked the punt and scored a touchdown. A flag was never thrown. The game film confirmed our claim that there were 13 defenders on the field."

Brandon Butler, Bryant Class of 2005
"When I meet someone that went to Benton, I can say that I never lost one football game to them from eighth grade until I graduated."

Travis Queck, Bryant Class of 2005
In 2004, just before half time, Anthony Mask hit Dustin Holland for what would become the game winner in a 10-2 victory."
Jon Chris Roberts, Benton Class of 2004
"I remember  the look on the cornerback's eyes as I caught a reverse pass from Josh Brown for a touchdown. As I ran in the end zone I remember pointing the ball at our teams fans kids railing the fence acknowledging them and also remembering when I was one of those kids an the excitement I had felt at Panther games."

Justin Ray , Benton class of 2004
"The atmosphere was always electric. I just remember, after any big play the crowds on both sides always stand up and roar like a big-time college atmosphere. As a player it made you want to succeed that much more just to have that feelings again. When I was playing, we had a hatred for the other side. We respected each other off the field, but I never remembered having a "real" friendship with anyone from Bryant while I was in school. The only mindset I had while playing was, I do not want to go 365 days having to listen to someone tell me they are better than I am. If that doesn't want to make you fight than you aren't a competitor. I have several plays that stand stand out in my head while playing. The most memorable was having a full body cramp my senior year falling at the 1-yard line about to score a touchdown. We were up 34-17 at that point. The final score ended in a tie, 34-all. I am still reminded of that every year when the Salt Bowl comes around.

Scott Summers, Bryant Class of 1998
"I got to know a lot of Benton folks at college in Fayetteville  and they were good people, go figure!  I was in a unique situation my senior year, though.  I had already been offered by the Hogs and accepted and that seemed to add some hatred to the feud, but I had become friends with Benton's all star linebacker Ashley James.  He went to Arkansas too and we became friends.  He is a great guy.  Also, our quarterback that year, who was my best friend, had started dating the captain of the Benton cheer leading squad so we were hanging out with Benton folks all the time.  Our coaches didn't like it!"

All quotes from former players were compiled by Everette Hatcher. Hatcher is a regular contributor to The Saline Courier. He is the fourth generation in his family to work in the broom manufacturing business. Everette and his wife Jill have four children and live in Shannon Hills.