The Benton Tigers won their first playoff game since 2009 Friday night, defeating the Belle Chasse Cardinals 23-15 at Tiger Stadium.
Benton (9-2), the No. 4 seed in Class 4A, will travel to New Orleans this Friday to play No. 20 East Jefferson (7-4), which upset No. 13 Crowley 38-19. Belle Chasse, the No. 29 seed, finished 4-7.
The Tigers led 23-7 in early in the fourth quarter after Garrett Hable hit Brayden Hutchinson with a short touchdown pass. Gage Carroway set up the TD by recovering a muffed punt at the Belle Chasse 3.
The Cardinals were far from done, however. They converted two fourth-down situations en route to a touchdown, including a 24-yard jump ball pass on fourth-and-4 for the score. A two-point conversion made it an 8-point game with 6:17 still remaining.
Belle Chasse got the ball back with less than five minutes left. The Cardinals overcame a holding penalty and moved to the Benton 16. A holding penalty followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball all the way back to the 47.
On the next play, Shane Cram sealed the victory with an interception at the 10.
“I told our guys all week that it’s going to be a 48-minute battle; it’s going to be a war,” Benton coach Reynolds Moore said. “They had a good football team and you saw that. They just wouldn’t go away. But our guys all year have done what it takes to win. I’m proud of our guys.”
Belle Chasse scored first on quarterback Andrew Hicks’ 35-yard run. Benton’s Chauncey Taylor answered with a 13-yard run touchdown run. Taylor dragged almost the entire Belle Chasse defense with him into the end zone.
The Benton offense was sluggish in the first half, but the Tigers got going early in the second with Hable doing a good job of running the show. Benton took the lead on a short run by Taylor. Jordan White’s PAT gave the Tigers a 14-7 advantage.
The Tigers put together another impressive drive but it ended just short of the goalline. However, on the next play the Tigers took Hicks down in the end zone for a safety and a 16-7 lead with less than a minute gone in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers’ final TD came after the muffed punt. Moore wasn’t surprised the opportunity presented itself.
“I told somebody this week that with our punter (White), as high as he punts it, as cold as it’s going to be — I’ve watched the last couple of games they’ve played and they’re line drive punts so they’re punt returners haven’t had to field that kind of punt. And a lot of people don’t because we’ve got the best punter in the state in my opinion. That makes it really tough when you’re not used to that sky-high kick, booming, having to chase it. That’s tough to do out of nowhere. I thought we might get one. We almost had one earlier in the game.”
Hable completed 17 of 27 passes for 206 yards. At one point in had one incompletion in 14 attempts in the second half.
“Hable has a lot of moxie, a lot of guts for a freshman; we’ve seen that starting with the Fair Park game,” Moore said. “He missed some throws he doesn’t normally miss in the first half. I don’t know if it was nerves. We wanted to get him on the edge more than we have in the past, let him run a little bit. We saw him run a few times for a first down.
“I just had to talk to him and tell him to settle down and be who you are. I think he came back in the second half and had a really good second half. He ran the football well.”
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org