After his team’s 58-14 loss to Captain Shreve on Thursday night at Lee Hedges Stadium — the Tigers’ third straight — Benton head coach Reynolds Moore wanted his players to focus on the future.
There is still a lot of football left to be played and goals that can be accomplished, like making the playoffs in Benton’s first year in Class 5A.
Moore knows winning the final four games will be a challenge, but he likes his team’s chances if the Tigers play like he believes they can.
“As bad as these three weeks have been you sit here with a chance,” Moore said. “You look at all these teams (left on the schedule) . . . you look and you feel like that these teams are more where we are. They’re building up as opposed to having been built where they are senior heavy, tons of experience, playoff experience.
“So you feel like you have a better chance against those teams. You look at it. You get three out of four you’re in the playoffs for sure. If you get all four of them you’re at home (in the first round) so even as bad as it’s been all is not lost.”
The Tigers (3-3, 0-3 District 1-5A) were simply no match for the Gators (5-1, 3-0).
Sophomore Caleb Cassidy made his first varsity start at quarterback against one of the two teams considered to be the favorites to win the district title before the season.
He replaced junior Clint Lasiter, who had started 14 straight games beginning with the third one of his sophomore season. A ULL baseball commit, Lasiter passed for 1,099 yards and 13 TDs in the first five games. He moved to the defensive side of the ball where the Tigers have been down three starters because of injuries the last several games.
“We felt like Lasiter gave us a little spark on defense and the dropoff (at quarterback) wasn’t severe to Cassidy there so we decided to make a switch and go with him,” Moore said. “He’s a little bit more fiery and it seems like the kids feed off him a little bit more.”
Cassidy is a proven winner. He led Benton Middle to the Bossier Parish eighth-grade district title two years ago and was named Offensive MVP on the Coaches’ All-District team.
The left-handed Cassidy threw his first high school touchdown pass, a 20-yard swing pass on fourth-and-two that got Benton within 8-7 in the first quarter.
But he threw an interception on an attempted screen pass that was returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter that gave Shreve a 15-7 lead.
Moore thought Cassidy turned in a game effort but he knew things would be tough against a Shreve defense that limited Parkway to less than 200 total yards in a victory last week.
“He’s a sophomore,” Moore said. “He’s going to make the sophomore mistakes. We saw Clint make them last year. Garrett (Hable) made them his sophomore and freshman years. On top of the fact that it’s a difficult opposition to play. Now we’ve seen probably the two best defenses around here with Haughton and Shreve back-to-back weeks. He kind of had an unfortunate deal to be thrown into this one. We feel like this sets him up to do better the rest of the season.”
According to Shreve radio statistician Lee Hiller, Cassidy completed 14 of 19 passes for 86 yards.
The Gators turned the game into a rout in the second quarter, scoring 36 points including a touchdown with 15 seconds left in the half.
The Benton defense didn’t play badly.
One of the Gators’ touchdowns came on a punt return. Another interception, a lost fumble and a failed fourth-down try in Tigers territory also gave Shreve short fields.
Captain Shreve can score from anywhere on the field, though. Speedster DJ Fleming, a member of the Gators’ Class 5A state champion 4X100-meter relay team, scored on runs of 75, 21 and 7 yards in the first half. He really showed his speed on a TD that was called back, jetting down the Shreve sideline.
According to Shreve radio statistician Lee Hiller, Fleming rushed for 167 yards on 10 carries and the Gators finished with 363 on the ground.
Kendrick Law, another Gator with great speed, scored twice. The first came on a 41-yard run and the second on the punt return, which covered 69 yards.
Moore knew Shreve’s speed and experience would pose a challenge.
“We knew how good they were,” he said. “About 30 seniors over there. That’s kind of where we were two years ago (when Benton went 10-0 in the regular season). I said that about Haughton last week. I’m saying it about Shreve again. These teams have been building up two years the same way we did, all those starters having played two or three years.
“Certainly a ton of team speed, a ton of talent over there. We knew that. We had to play a near-perfect game to get it done. I thought for a quarter we did well.”
To Benton’s credit, the Tigers took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove for a touchdown. Cameron Barnett had a long, tackle-breaking run that set up a 3-yard TD pass from Cassidy to Malik Antwine.
Barnett finished with 99 yards on 17 carries.
Benton returns to Lee Hedges Stadium next Friday to face Byrd (1-4, 1-1). The Yellow Jackets visit Parkway Friday night.
Moore expects to get three injured starters back. After three tough weeks, it’s almost like a new season is about to begin.