Home Sports-Free High school football: Outstanding defensive effort helps Benton defeat Northwood in opener

High school football: Outstanding defensive effort helps Benton defeat Northwood in opener

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In 2014, the Benton Tigers defeated East Jefferson in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs in Reynolds Moore’s second season as head coach.

Since then, of course, Moore has enjoyed plenty of big victories, including some that decided district championships. But the East Jefferson one has always been his favorite.

Well, now there may be a tie at the top.

Moore’s Tigers opened his ninth season as head coach Thursday night with a 12-7 victory over the Northwood Falcons at Jerry Burton Memorial Stadium.

In a preseason poll of the district’s coaches conducted by The Shreveport Times, Northwood was picked to finish atop the 1-4A East standings. The Falcons were ranked No. 7 in the preseason LSWA Class 4A poll.

“My favorite win in the program was that East Jeff second-round win that put us in the quarterfinals that second year,” Moore said. “But this is right up there with it. We beat a good football team tonight.”

A sensational defensive effort and a methodical offense led by a strong performance up front keyed the victory.

Benton almost got a shutout. After recovering a fumble as the Tigers were trying to milk the clock, the Falcons scored with 22 seconds left. But that was as close as the they got.

“Our defense played lights out,” Moore said. “They hit the quarterback all night long. They were active. They were moving. They did a good job of trying to squeeze the speed back inside.”

Besides the late TD, Northwood’s deepest penetration was the Benton 16. The Tigers stopped a fourth-down play. The Falcons didn’t get inside the Benton 30 on any of their other possessions until the TD.

The Tigers put together 16-play touchdown drives in the second and fourth quarters. Greg Manning capped the first on a 1-yard run. It included only two passes. Quarterback Gray Walters scored the second on a short keeper.

Moore had high praise for his offensive line.

“They played really, really well,” he said “They created some gaps right there. Northwood has been really good against the run through what we’ve seen on the scrimmage and jamboree (videos). They do a lot of things that cause a lot of chaos. Our offensive line just held tough.

“Gray had time to throw it when we threw it. We ran the ball well. Our backs did a phenomenal job.”

RJ Moore had three catches on the final TD drive. Manning and Ethan Johnson gained some tough yards on the ground.

“Greg Manning and Ethan Johnson pounded the ball in there the whole time,”

Moore said. “It was quite an impressive drive.”

Walters scored with a little over six minutes to play. The Tigers harassing defense forced a fumble on Northwood’s second-to-last possession.

The Tigers had mixed results on special teams. Davis Sellers, a big part of the dominant defense, recovered a muffed punt. But the Tigers failed to convert two PAT attempts and missed a 40-yard field goal near the end of the first half.

The only other negative was a couple of lost fumbles, including the one near the end of the game that gave Northwood some hope.

What pleased Moore the most was the way the Tigers rebounded after last week’s 24-14 loss to Parkway in the jamboree. Several Benton players suffered leg cramps in the second 12-minute half played before the sun set.

It was hot again, of course, Thursday night, but Moore said the Tigers handled it much better.

“My biggest thing was our guys answered the bell when I asked them,” he said. “We didn’t play well in the jamboree. Forget about the score, we just didn’t play well and didn’t execute and give great effort.

“Tonight it was flipped around. Our guys were out there mashing and pounding and their guys were cramping over and over and over again. We look up and there’s one play where there’s two guys cramping and that happened multiple times. So I think our guys just really, really got physical tonight and answered the challenge this week. So super proud of them.”

Benton travels to Lake Charles next Friday to face Barbe. The Buccaneers are scheduled to open their season Friday night at LaGrange.

Northwood gets another shot at a Bossier Parish team next Friday. The Falcons host Haughton.

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