The Benton Tigers continued their impressive start to the season with a 49-40 non-district victory over the Barbe Buccaneers Friday night in Lake Charles.
Benton (2-0) equaled its win total of last season, which was shortened to seven games because of COVID-19.
Barbe (1-1) has traditionally been one of the state’s top Class 5A programs. The Bucs opted out of last season because of damage the school and surrounding area sustained from Hurricane Laura. That was the first time since 1991 the Bucs didn’t participate in the playoffs.
“It’s a big deal,” Benton Head Coach Reynolds Moore said of the victory. “I’m excited.”
After a solid performance in a 12-7 victory over Northwood last week, the Tigers’ offense got rolling Friday.
Benton had 536 yards of total offense, 298 passing and 238 rushing.
“The offense definitely got going tonight,” Moore said.
Junior quarterback Gray Walters completed 12 of 19 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
“It was probably the best game I’ve seen Gray play,” Moore said. “He made real good decisions and was on target. He would pull it down and run (and) had a big first-down running and had a nice touchdown running.”
Pearce Russell caught two touchdown passes. One was on a double-pass on fourth down. Walters threw to backup quarterback Jeffrey King behind the line of scrimmage and King hit Russell for the 41-yard score.
Russell’s other TD catch covered 72 yards. He finished with six catches for 157 yards. Cade Stewart also caught a 19-yard TD pass.
RJ Moore caught a 45-yard touchdown pass. Perhaps more importantly, he made all seven of his extra-point kicks. Benton blocked one of Barbe’s PATs and kept it a two-score game by stopping a two-point conversion pass.
“After missing two last week I thought that was a good way to rebound,” Moore said. “Missing those kicks is very obviously unlike us anyway, four-year starter kicker. So to come back and make all seven this week was a big deal I think.”
Greg Manning scored on a 6-yard run in the first quarter. He had his second straight game of more than 100 yard rushing with 116 on 27 carries.
Benton put 42 on the board in the first half but Barbe remained within striking distance with 27. The Tigers increased the lead to 49-27 with 5:35 left in the third quarter.
Barbe scored twice to make things interesting. The Bucs’ final TD came with 3:46 left in the game. But Benton stopped the conversion attempt, picked up some first downs and ran out the clock.
“We got the ball to start the second half, had a six-minute-plus drive to score a touchdown and take a three-score lead,” Moore said. “Probably should’ve kept our foot on the gas there; probably took it off a little bit I think, too quickly. You don’t want to run it up, but you’ve got to make sure you finish.”
The 14-play drive to start the third quarter was capped by a 2-yard Landon Duggan run.
Barbe’s Jamaal Levi had a big game with three touchdown catches and a kickoff return for a TD in the first half. He finished with nine catches for 287 yards and five total touchdowns, according to the Lake Charles American Press.
“No. 2 for them is a special player,” Moore said. “We knew he was going to be a handful. We knew he was going to be fast. He got away from us, a couple of long catches, and had a kickoff return touchdown. Other than that I thought our defense played pretty well.”
Benton hosts Richwood Friday in its homecoming game. The Rams (1-1) defeated Madison 30-20 Friday night.
“If we can avoid the distractions and traps that are always there on homecoming week and stay focused we’ve got a really good chance to win next week I think and be 3-0,” Moore said. “So excited about that, just having that possibility of going 3-0 and starting district play that way. Obviously you can’t start any better than that.”