The first game of the 2019 season couldn’t have started any worse for the Benton Tigers. But it couldn’t have finished any better.
After spotting the Oak Grove Tigers a 14-0 lead at Tiger Stadium, Benton roared back for a 33-21 victory Friday night.
Benton ended Oak Grove’s 18-game regular-season winning streak. Oak Grove went 10-0 last season and lost to Kentwood in the Class 1A championship game.
The Tigers from northeast Louisiana came into the game as the preseason No. 1 team in the LSWA 1A poll.
“I told our guys all week they’re going to come in here ready to play,” Moore said. “They didn’t schedule a loss.”
Benton got on the board on Jastin Johnson’s 1-yard run.
“It definitely settled us down right there where we could actually remember that we’re OK,” Moore said.
Benton then recovered a fumble on the kickoff return. Quarterback Clint Lasiter scored on a 6-yard run and RJ Moore’s PAT tied it at 14.
Benton took the lead on a 74-yard pass from Lasiter to Artis Cole.
Oak Grove tied it with a touchdown pass. But Benton grabbed the lead for good on Moore’s 28-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Benton got a safety with 6:54 left in the game.
Lasiter then scored from 5 yards out to give the Bossier Parish Tigers some breathing room late in the game.
Oak Grove has two returning Class 1A All-State linemen in 6-foot-1, 290-pound Nick Sciara and 6-3, 305-pound Kenean Caldwell. And they weren’t the only players with size on the roster.
Moore said one of his linemen told him trying to block them was like running into a brick wall.
But as you would expect in a game between Class 5A and 1A teams, Benton had superior depth. And Moore said that started showing in the second quarter.
“The second quarter, those big guys they have, they were on the field a lot of plays,” he said. “They were tired.”
Moore expected Oak Grove to be able to move the ball. He said the key was making them have to go a long way to score.
“We made them play on long fields in the second half, second quarter even,” he said.
Offensively, Benton used short passes to the outside to good effect, something Moore said he saw Kentwood do against Oak Grove in last year’s state title game.
“We just started going back and forth with some short stuff, making them defend everything, the whole field,” he said “We were able to get a lot of yards off that and kind of started pushing tempo.”
Lasiter completed 18 of 29 passes for 262 yards with 232 of that coming in the first half.
Benton travels to Vicksburg, Miss., Friday to take on Vicksburg. Vicksburg dropped to 1-2 a 42-7 loss to Warren Central Friday night.