The Benton Tigers won their fourth straight game Friday night, edging the Woodlawn Knights 29-28 in a District 1-4A game at Tiger Stadium.
Benton improved to 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the district. The Tigers are one game behind undefeated Northwood (9-0, 6-0) going into their regular-season finale Friday against Booker T. Washington (1-8, 0-5) at home.
The Falcons, who clinched a share of the title with a 48-14 victory over BTW, close the regular season Thursday night at home against Bossier (1-8, 0-5).
Friday’s game was Benton’s fifth in a row decided by four points or less. Three have been decided by one point.
“We’re a second-half team or fourth-quarter team, whatever you want to call it,” Benton coach Reynolds Moore said. “Our guys rise up when they need to.”
Benton trailed 20-13 then scored 16 straight points. Clint Lasiter’s 11-yard touchown pass to Bubba Osby gave the Tigers a 29-20 lead with 8:36 left in the game.
An interception return for a touchdown followed by a two-point conversion got Woodlawn (4-5, 3-3) within one. The Knights had a chance to pull it out at the end, lining up for a 31-yard field goal attempt. After a delay of game penalty moved the ball back, they decided to go for the first down and the Tigers stopped them.
Benton cut Woodlawn’s lead to 20-15 with a safety after the Knights were backed up to the 1. Malik Antwine’s 12-yard TD catch and RJ Moore’s PAT gave the Tigers a 22-20 lead.
Osby scored Benton’s first touchdown on an 11-yard pass from Lasiter. The Tigers missed another opportunity to score and Woodlawn led 12-7 at the half. One of the Knights’ first-half TDs came on a Pick Six.
Benton recovered a Woodlawn fumble on the second-half kickoff and Keldric Moody made the Knights pay, scoring on a 17-yard run to give the Tigers a 13-12 lead.
Benton coach Reynolds Moore said the game was “choppy.” “I don’t really know how to say it,” he said. “There was just no real flow to the game.”
The Tigers played without standout wide receiver Legend Denler and linebacker Cole Horton, who were both sick. Both were first-team All-Parish selections in 2017 and are multi-year starters.
Moore said Reed Bearden and junior Shaw Malley both came in and did outstanding jobs as their replacements.
Bearden had started two games when Horton was hurt early in the season.
“He’s played behind the Cole the last three years and has just continued to go to work,” Moore said. “He’s played on special teams some this year. Just a great job for us.”
Malley has also started a couple of games and has generally rotated in as Benton’s No. 5 receiver.
“Shaw stepped in and did a really good job tonight,” Moore said.
One of Malley’s catches resulted in a third-down conversion.
“Clint scrambled and Shaw came back to him and made a nice catch,” Moore said.
Moore was pleased with the way his defense played despite not having Horton and lineman Kershun Shepard, who was lost for the season to an injury during last week’s win against Huntington.
But he wasn’t happy with giving up points on offense again.
“It’s been our Achilles heal all year,” he said.
Before the season, there were those that thought defending champion Benton would finish no better than third or even fourth in the district considering the amount of veteran talent to Tigers lost to graduation from the 2017 11-1 team. When Benton started the season 0-2, it looked like the doubters may have been on to something.
But Benton has won six of its last seven, the only loss 28-27 to a Northwood team that’s ranked No. 3 in the state.
“What we’re looking at here is we’ve got a chance to get seven wins,” Moore said. “The biggest thing now for us is to be 6-1 in the district.”
Moore wasn’t surprised that his team wasn’t among the favorites to win the title, but he knew something others didn’t.
“Credit to our guys,” he said. “They didn’t say, ‘Look, we’re going to have a down year. We’ve just got to get through it.’ These guys wanted to step up and make this year a good one as well and they’ve done a great job of that.”