In a few games this season, the Benton Tigers have gotten off to fast starts but then let their foot off the gas a little.
That wasn’t the case Friday night.
The No. 10 seed Tigers raced to a big early lead en route to a 63-28 victory over No. 23 Ellender in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs at Tiger Stadium.
Benton (9-2) will face No. 7 Rayne (10-1), a 49-18 winner over No. 26 Lakeshore, in the second round Friday in Rayne. Ellender finished the season 6-5.
The Tigers jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead against the Patriots.
“I was just talking to my son and he said, well, you know what happened the last time we got up 14-0,” Benton coach Reynolds Moore said after the game.
That was against Woodlawn in Week 8. The Knights rallied and won 54-28.
The Tigers made sure that didn’t happen again. Benton scored another touchdown in the first quarter and extended the lead to 35-0 before Ellender scored just before the half.
“We’ve struggled with that,” Moore said. “But our guys did a really good job at keeping the intensity up and not falling back and letting it slide. Our guys played their tails off.”
Benton quarterback Garrett Hable completed 17 of 28 passes for 263 yards and four touchdowns. He also scored a rushing touchdown.
John Westmoreland caught six passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Legend Denler caught four passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Doyle Adams Jr. had seven catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. He also saw significant playing time on defense.
Jermaine Newton rushed for 88 yards and two scores. Sophomore Keldrick Moody also had a rushing touchdown.
“I thought it was as close to a perfect execution of a game plan that I’ve seen, taking what they were giving us and exploiting some of the gaps we thought they had in their defense,” Moore said. “I thought our guys did a really good job. I told them all week if you execute I think you’re the better football team. If you execute and do what you’re supposed to you’ll be fine, (but if) you come out and let them make some big plays early on and stay in the game then you’re going to be in trouble. They did a good job with it.”
Ellender’s Davontavean Martin, a Tulane commitment who alternated between quarterback and receiver, had his moments in the game. But the Tigers defense more than did their part.
Linebacker Cole Horton had a big game. He had two fumble recoveries and returned an interception for a touchdown. He also had eight tackles and a sack.
Jackson Matthews had nine tackles. Kemone Perry had eight tackles. Moore said defensive backs Bubba Osby and Johntavious Johnson also did a good job.
“They have some great athletes,” Moore said. “We did a real good job of finally getting some pressure on the quarterback. They had a kid (Martin) who could run around. He did a fantastic job with yards after the catch when he caught some balls. But our guys were up to the task.”
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com