Pan­thers heal­ing, head to Cabot to wrap non­con­fer­ence

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Tony Le­na­han tle­na­[email protected]­ton­courier.com

BEN­TON – The Ben­ton Pan­thers are back at it tonight af­ter a much-needed off week and 0-2 start to the sea­son. Ben­ton heads to Cabot (2-0) to face the Pan­thers from the north at 7 p.m.

“I felt we got bet­ter, try­ing to get some guys healed up,” Ben­ton Coach Brad Har­ris said. “This week we’ve had solid prac­tices all week. We haven’t had a bad one. They’ve been pretty fo­cused and we feel like we’ve got a chance to win this week against a good Cabot team. We know we have to play well.”

Not only has Ben­ton started 0-2 this year, they lost many play­ers due to in­juries through the first two games, losses to de­fend­ing 7A cham­pion Bryant in the Salt Bowl and 4A de­fend­ing cham­pion Arkadel­phia two weeks ago. But, Ben­ton re­turns the ma­jor­ity helped by the bye.

“We’ve got Gar­rett Brown (bruised ster­num) back at quar­ter­back,” Har­ris said.

“He ac­tu­ally prac­ticed the off week, too. We’ll have Pey­ton Hud­gins (con­cus­sion) back, we’ll have D’an­thony Harper back (con­cus­sion). Those are three guys to give us a huge shot in the arm of­fen­sively.

“Also, Brax­ton Slaugh­ter (cramps), he didn’t play the sec­ond half of the Arkadel­phia game, we’ve got him back.”

The Pan­thers also re­turn some key de­fen­sive starters, in­clud­ing cor­ner­backs Trevor Stan­dridge (con­cus­sion) and Cade Clark (shoul­der), and line­backer Gavin Davis (an­kle), ten­ta­tively, but

are likely with­out se­nior cor­ner­back Austin Drewry, who leads Saline County with three in­ter­cep­tions, and se­nior line­backer Trae Maxwell.

“The two guys we don’t think we’ll have is cor­ner­back Austin Drewry be­cause of a groin is­sue, and Trae Maxwell, a line­backer, has a deep quad bruise and is hav­ing a tough time with that,” Har­ris said. “We’re prob­a­bly go­ing to keep him out an­other week and get him ready for con­fer­ence play.”

That Ben­ton de­fense will have to con­tend with a Cabot of­fense that has seen some success this sea­son (43-19 win over Pine Bluff, 35-14 win over El Do­rado) with ju­nior quar­ter­back Tyler Gee, who has passed for 263 yards and three touch­downs, lead­ing the of­fense.

“He’s very solid,” Har­ris said of Gee. “He’s very com­pa­ra­ble to a Gar­rett Brown type player. He throws the ball well. I think Gar­rett has a (more live) arm than he does, but he’s a headsy kid, throws it around.”

Gee’s fa­vorite tar­get by far is se­nior re­ceiver De’kairo Ru­dolph, a 6-2, 185-pounder who leads Cabot with 13 catches, 208 yards and three TDS.

“They’ve got one re­ceiver, Ru­dolph, he’s their guy they’re go­ing to go to,” Har­ris said. “When you look at their stat line, all of their other re­ceivers com­bined, he’s got more catches than them. They’re go­ing to go to him and we know that. He’s their big-play guy.

“They’ve made some plays. They’ve been very for­tu­nate, very op­por­tunis­tic. Field po­si­tion has been great for them. They’re tak­ing ad­van­tage of that of­fen­sively and put up some points.”

Though Cabot se­nior run­ning back Gra­ham Turner has got­ten off to a semi-slow start with 123 yards rush­ing (2.7 yards per carry), he has rushed for five TDS this sea­son and rushed for over 100 yards in Ben­ton’s 56-41 vic­tory over Cabot last year.

“Their run­ning back is a solid lit­tle guy,” Har­ris said of Turner. “They don’t have big-time rush stats, but they do a solid job in the run game and they like to hit the big play with Ru­dolph.”

For Ben­ton, Hud­gins started against Bryant at quar­ter­back be­fore get­ting in­jured, but will fo­cus more at re­ceiver against Cabot with Brown tak­ing the start­ing quar­ter­back reins against a stout front seven for Cabot.

“Their two in­te­rior de­fen­sive line­men, 59 (Hay­den Matthews) and 98 (Hunter Horka), are re­ally good, and No. 30 (Justin Un­der­wood), their mid­dle line­backer, they’re real strong in the mid­dle of their de­fense,” Har­ris said. “They get down­hill and do a re­ally good job. They’re phys­i­cal up front and they do a good job with their front seven and try not to get beat over the top. We’ve got to do a good job of throw­ing the foot­ball around and ex­e­cute plays on the perime­ter. Perime­ter block­ing is go­ing to be a big key this week.”

With a week off to heal, Ben­ton looks for its first vic­tory be­fore hit­ting 6A West Con­fer­ence play.

“I re­ally like where we’re at at get­ting our guys back this week,” Har­ris said. “I feel like we’re prob­a­bly as healthy as we’ve been this year. Even go­ing into the Bryant game we had a cou­ple guys banged up. Get­ting Pey­ton back, get­ting D’an­thony back is huge.”

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.

TONY GATLIN/TONY Gatlin Pho­tog­ra­phy

Ben­ton se­nior Gavin Wells runs in a loss to Arkadel­phia two weeks ago. The Pan­thers head to Cabot to­day to take on the Pan­thers of the north to wrap up non­con­fer­ence play. Kick­off is 7 p.m.

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