The offense has gotten most of the credit for the Benton Tigers’ success this season.
That’s what happens when you average almost 50 points per game.
But now it’s time for the defense to take a bow. The Tigers kept Woodlawn, a team that came in averaging 43 points per game, out of the end zone in a big 20-0 victory over the Knights on Friday night at Independence Stadium.
The Tigers (9-0, 6-0), No. 2 in the Class 4A power rankings, clinched a share of the District 1-4A championship. They have a one-game lead over Northwood (7-2, 5-1) with only Friday’s game at Booker T. Washington (1-8, 1-5), which lost to Northwood 48-6 Thursday, left in the regular season. The Tigers will likely have to beat BTW to win the outright title.
Benton also avenged last season’s 54-28 loss to the the defending district champion Knights (6-3, 4-2).
The Benton defense turned away the Knights twice in the first half inside the red zone. Woodlawn star Trivenskey Mosley had some nice gains, including a 47-yard run in the first half, but Tigers kept him and the other Knights from breaking one all the way.
Benton coach Reynolds Moore thought both his defense and Woodlawn’s were underrated as well as being overshadowed by the teams’ prolific offenses.
“I thought our defensive coaches put in a great game plan,” Moore said. “I thought our guys executed with effort. It was kind of a relentless pursuit once we settled down right there.
“We knew they’d get some big plays but we didn’t give up the touchdown on the big plays. We just kept fighting and made them run another one and forced them into some third and longs, some fourth downs, and were able to get them off the field. Some big red zone stops in the first half.”
Moore said every defensive player stepped up, but he was especially pleased with the play of Jeremy Hall, Michael Schoth and Johntavious Johnson in the secondary.
“Secondary was big tonight,” he said “We’ve given up some big plays in our secondary this year. They’ve kind of been picked on more that anybody else on the defense. They’ve gotten called for a lot of pass interferences and not done what they’re supposed to and tonight they did.”
Schoth intercepted a halfback pass and Hall knocked away several passes.
Moore also praised Brooks Cram, Anthony Echols and T.J. Anderson up front.
“(They) did a great job getting pressure back there,” he said. “Each had a sack or two or more.”
Still, it took every player doing his job to keep the Knights at bay.
“To have an effort, to put up a zero on a team of that caliber and with that many weapons, everybody’s got to play well,” Moore said “That’s what happened tonight. I just can’t say enough about what they did. I told our guys, look, we can put you in position but you’ve got to make the plays, and they did tonight. That was very impressive to watch what they did tonight.”
The Knights did hurt themselves with penalties. Woodlawn had three touchdowns called back in the first half. The Knights also had a couple of drops, including one that could’ve been a TD.
“They had a couple of dropped balls but I think some of those drops come from being physical,” Moore said “They know they’re about to get hit. I think sometimes it’s a mindset. That’s what we try to do, make sure we’re doing everything we can to be physical the whole game.”
The Tigers stayed mostly conservative on offense. Garrett Hable put the ball in the air only seven times and completed four for 57 yards. He did go over 8,000 yards for his career, though.
Legend Denler had some big catches to keep drives alive.
Jermaine Newton scored the only TD of the first half on a 5-yard run. Newton went 7 yards for a TD early in the second half to extend the Tigers’ lead to 13-0.
The Tigers got more breathing room in the fourth quarter when Hable hit Bubba Osby with a 17-yard TD pass.
“We were able to run the ball some, even it was just two or three yards a pop instead of seven, eight or nine yards,” Moore said. “I thought our guys did a real good job of taking what they gave us, and play-call wise we had to make sure we were OK with a chance to punt sometimes or run the clock.
“We shortened the game a pretty good bit. I think it was the shortest game we played. I felt like our running game — even when it didn’t pop big — it was either good enough to pick up some first downs when we needed to or keep that clock moving and keep them off the field.”
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com