The Benton Tigers started strong, sagged in the middle and then came up big at the end in a season-opening 41-30 victory over the Green Oaks Giants Friday night in Benton.
The Tigers scored two quick touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead. But Green Oaks rallied and led 30-21 in the third quarter.
Benton regained the lead on touchdown runs of 10 yards by Jermaine Newton and 1 by Chauncey Taylor. Jordan Myles sealed the victory with an interception return for a touchdown.
“That win’s a big one, especially when you have to fight for it,” Benton coach Reynolds Moore said. “The thing I like about is we played ahead early, so we can go back and say, ‘Hey guys, you were ahead and backed off for whatever reason and let them back in it and we can’t do that. When you jump out to a big lead you’ve got to build on it.
“ ‘Then you play two scores behind when you’re down 30-21. You know you have to come back from two and you don’t panic. You keep playing and trust what you do, get better as the game goes on.’ Our guys showed a lot of the potential we have.”
Moore said the Tigers simply wore the Giants down at the end. He praised both teams’ efforts.
“We started running the ball; our numbers played a big factor in that,” he said. “Both teams played their stinking guts out. It was a fun game for the fans to watch and I’m sure both coaching staffs are proud of the efforts their kids gave.
“It was almost one of those deals where, man I’m sad somebody had to lose this, but it was that type of feeling. Their kids left it all on the field. They were cramping up left and right. They would cramp up, sit out a couple of plays and come back. They would’n’t go away. We were able to kind of bash on them and lean on them at the end and take the life out of them there.”
Benton sophomore quarterback Garrett Hable threw for 244 yards and a touchdown to John Westmoreland. Newton, also just a sophomore, scored two touchdowns.
Benton spread the ball out to his receivers. Clayton Festavan caught six passes for 109 yards, Sam Simmons five for 50, Westmoreland four for 34 and Ian McEntee two for 33.
Newton carried times times for 89 yards and caught four passes for 17 more.
Taylor made some big plays on both sides of the ball. He ran 50 yards up the middle on fourth-and-3 and later scored on a 4-yard run. He also had another short run for a TD and ran for a first down with Benton facing a fourth-down situation late in the game.
A big concern for Moore was turnovers. The Tigers lost the ball on two interceptions, including one for a TD, and two fumbles.
“Green Oaks played their stinkin’ tails off, but we shot ourselves in the foot a lot, too,” Moore said. “It’s just stuff we have to clean up.”
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org