After surviving a 28-26 victory over the Siloam Springs Panthers on the long road last Friday, the Benton Panthers return home to face the Hall Warriors tonight at Panther Stadium.
Though Benton’s victory last week was too close for comfort, considering the Panthers walloped Siloam 55-14 last season, Benton goes into tonight’s game 2-0 in the 6A West Conference, 2-3 overall, while the Warriors are also 2-3, but 0-2 in the West.
“They’re athletic just like they are every year,” Benton Coach Brad Harris said. “That’s the scary part about it is they’ve got some kids that are pretty athletic. We just have to go out and take care of business and execute, and play a solid game.”
The Warriors, which Benton shut out 49-0 last year, started 2-0 to start this season (wins over Fair and Mills), but have since lost three straight, including a 42-0 shutout to Greenwood and a 42-12 defeat at Lake Hamilton last week. Granted the Warriors have already matched their win total from 2016, but they had just one win each in 2017 and 2018, and were winless from 2012 to 2015.”
“They’ve struggled some in the past, but this year they’ve won two ballgames even though it was against Little Rock Fair and Mills, two teams that have also struggled,” Harris said. “But they’ve won two games. It’s something they haven’t done in the past.”
Though the Warriors have had their struggles, they do have some dangerous playmakers.
“Everything kind of runs through their quarterback, Braelon Adams,” Harris said. “He’s a big kid, runs the football really well. He also plays defense for them. A lot of their players play both ways.
“One of their running backs, Kavionne Rucker, is a pretty good player. No. 10 (Dontevious Patterson) is also a good player for them. He plays quarterback some, running back, receiver, they move him around to different places. That’s their three top playmakers I would say. Also, No. 9 (Wa-li Johnson), plays running back. They have a few guys that can make plays.”
The Panthers will be getting back to themselves after their close call against a very much improved Siloam team.
“This week we’ve been focused on ourselves,” Harris said. “We’ve scouted them (Warriors) up personnel-wise, but we’re just trying to do the best we can to take care of ourselves. Our biggest thing we face every year when we play these guys is motivation and getting ready to play a team that hasn’t been successful over the years.”
Benton’s main focus this week has been the ground game. Though the Panthers ran well at times and gained 170 yards with sophomore Casey Johnson running for 99 and senior D’Anthony Harper 70 and a touchdown, Benton failed to push at crucial times.
“Scheme-wise, we’ve got to get our run game going more consistently,” Harris said. “We felt like that really hurt us against Siloam Springs. We weren’t able to run the football like we needed to. That was a big disappointment for us. Hand it to Siloam, they did a really good job, but we have to do a better job at the running back position.”
Out last week due to suspension, senior receiver Gavin Wells will be out again tonight with a shoulder injury.
Harris hopes to get senior offensive lineman Tristan Red back in the trenches.
“Tristan Red sat last week and the week before,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get him back. He’s practicing this week, so I think we’ll have a chance to get him back in the rotation. That will help the offensive line. Missing him last week was big.”
Sophomore receiver Andre Lane will miss tonight’s game due to suspension, though senior offensive lineman Austin Jones, who was ejected like Lane in last week’s game, will not miss tonight.
“Andre Lane was suspended,” Harris said. “Austin Jones was not suspended. They got him because he came off the sideline. He was ejected the rest of that game, but he did not touch anybody, so he’s not suspended this week.
Benton senior linebacker Jaden Woolbright was named The Saline Courier Athlete of the Week after nine tackles, five for loss, an interception, two pass breakups and a sack to seal the win over Siloam.
The Benton Football Network will provide live radio on 106.7 FM The Ride, and live video streaming on YouTube at the Benton Football Network. Kickoff is 7 p.m.