Pan­thers hope for no hang­over vs. Wolves

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

BEN­TON – The Ben­ton Pan­thers had a huge win last week against the top 6A squad in the state, not to men­tion two-time de­fend­ing cham­pion Green­wood Bull­dogs last week.

Ben­ton’s 45-38 vic­tory at Pan­ther Sta­dium snapped Green­wood’s 19-game win streak and gave the Pan­thers their first win over the Bull­dogs, pre­vi­ously 0-5.

“It’s a huge win for our foot­ball pro­gram,” Ben­ton Coach Brad Har­ris said. “Green­wood came in with a 19-game win streak. We were 0-5 against them over the last five years, but to get a win over those guys was huge. Since I’ve been at Ben­ton, you talk about 6A foot­ball, you talk about Green­wood. You have to go through Green­wood, re­gard­less if it’s a reg­u­lar-sea­son game or a play­off game.

You beat them you feel like you’ve ac­com­plished some­thing.

“It’s prob­a­bly the big­gest win for our pro­gram since we beat Pine Bluff at Pine Bluff in 2014. It’s just a big win for us. We’ve had some big wins with the one over West Mem­phis last year in the semis, 2016 at Jones­boro up­set­ting the No. 1 seed. We’ve had some good wins, but when you beat Green­wood, not a lot of peo­ple can say that. A lot of peo­ple can’t say that over Rick Jones’ ten­ure since 2003, he hasn’t lost a whole lot of games. Any time you can beat them, it’s a big win.”

But, the Pan­thers (5-3, 5-0 West) don’t have time to pat them­selves on the back as they face an­other tough test at Lake Hamil­ton tonight against the un­de­feated Wolves (8-0, 5-0). Who­ever wins tonight will get a least a share for the 6A West Con­fer­ence crown.

“We’ve had a good week of prac­tice,” Har­ris said. “You kind of worry about hav­ing that hang­over after a big win like that. The guys have come in and prac­ticed well this week. They kind of un­der­stand what’s at stake. I think we’ll be ready. They know if we win, we win the con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship or a share of it at least. We win we get the No. 1 seed and that’s huge to have home field through­out the play­offs.”

The Wolves edged a very much-im­proved Sheri­dan Yel­low­jack­ets team, Ben­ton’s sea­son-fi­nale next week, 17-10 last week as sopho­more run­ning back Owen Miller rushed for

178 yards and a touch­down on 16 car­ries, with fel­low sopho­more Tevin Woodley go­ing for 82 and a TD as well. Lake Hamil­ton didn’t at­tempt a pass last week.

“They like to run the foot­ball,” Har­ris said. “They’re a re­ally good team with the Wing-t and that’s what’s kind of con­cern­ing to us. We haven’t seen an of­fense like theirs all year. It’s hard to pre­pare for, to sim­u­late in prac­tice.”

For the sea­son, Miller has gone for 1,268 yards on 134 car­ries (9.5 yards per carry) and 16 touch­downs, while Woodley is al­most at the 1,000-yard mark with 963 (7.3 av­er­age) and 18 TDS.

“They’re good. The thing about it is they’re sopho­mores that do a re­ally good job,” Har­ris said of the run­ning back duo. “Last year we played them in ju­nior high and they were re­ally good backs and they’re both start­ing for the var­sity team this year. They’ve done a re­ally good job with them.

“They run the ball with two dif­fer­ent styles. Miller is kind of the tail­back and gets on the edge a lot. Woodley is a big full­back, kind of bruiser. They run him with the full­back trap. He does a good job. He’s a big­ger-bod­ied kid. Two dif­fer­ent styles and they both run it re­ally well, and they get a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties. With the mis­di­rec­tion of the Wing-t, if you don’t do a good job with eye dis­ci­pline it can give you prob­lems. You have to do your job and not too much, mak­ing sure your eyes are in the right place pre-snap.”

Ju­nior quar­ter­back Layne War­rick man­ages the game well, pass­ing 26 of 42 for

539 yards and three TDS vs. one in­ter­cep­tion. War­rick is third on the squad with 485 yards on the ground, in­clud­ing eight TDS.

With in­juries to the of­fense lim­ited, the Pan­thers are hitting their stride at the right time as se­nior D’an­thony Harper rushed for 122 yards and four TDS, match­ing his sea­son TD to­tal, while also catch­ing a 55-yard pass last week, bruis­ing Bull­dogs de­fend­ers to get to the red zone, even­tu­ally lead­ing to a score.

Ju­nior quar­ter­back Gar­rett Brown also had a solid game, throw­ing for 277 yards and a TD (one pick) on 16 of 25 pass­ing, in­clud­ing 8 for 10 and 209 yards in the sec­ond half. Se­nior re­ceiver Gavin Wells had a nice re­turn after a three­game ab­sence with seven catches for 74 yards and a TD.

But, the in­jury bug hasn’t to­tally gone away as their will be a cou­ple starters out against the Wolves tonight.

“De­fen­sively we will be without Austin Drewry, a corner,” Har­ris said. “Last week against Green­wood he got a small frac­ture in his foot. He’s in a cast right now for two weeks. If we’re go­ing to lose a corner, this week and next week is prob­a­bly not a bad time to lose him be­cause we’re play­ing teams that don’t throw it around as much.

“We’re still go­ing to be without Austin Jones, an of­fen­sive line­man. We were hop­ing to get him back this week, but he’s just not quite healed enough. We feel like we can get him back for a play­off run.”

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.

BLAKE FOGLE­MAN/TONY Gatlin Pho­tog­ra­phy

Ben­ton se­nior D’an­thony Harper, 5, runs in a 45-38 vic­tory over the Green­wood Bull­dogs last week. Harper rushed for over 100 yards and four touch­downs in the win.

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