Last year, the Benton Tigers had to share the District 1-4A football championship.
They made sure that didn’t happen Friday night. The Tigers shook off a pesky Bossier Bearkat team in the third quarter en route to a 34-6 victory at Bossier’s Memorial Stadium.
Benton finished the regular-season 9-1 with its eighth straight victory and a perfect 7-0 in district. The Tigers will be at home for the first round of the playoffs Friday. Pairings will be announced Sunday.
Bossier finished its first season back in Class 4A after four in 3A at 3-7 and 0-7.
“In Week 4 and Week 5 when we started district play and got some big wins people started asking me what do you think,” Benton coach Reynolds Moore said. “At the end it’s kind of hard to believe as tough as our district is that anybody would go undefeated in district. To be not only able to win the district outright but to have a clean slate is pretty impressive what our guys did. I’m so proud of them.”
Moore said that before the season he thought the Tigers had a chance to have another good year, but he would’ve been hard-pressed to believe a 9-1 record, undefeated district title and likely top-five playoff seed were possible.
“You know what kind of teams every one else had and what kind of effort it would take to beat them, and week in and week out our guys did whatever it took — extra stop, extra score, special teams — whatever it took our guys did it. It was impressive and fun to watch and be a part of.”
Benton took a different route to the title this season. Last year, a stout defense led by a group of veteran players was the key. While the defense came up with some big stops and plays this season, the play of the offense was the major factor.
Benton averaged 39.1 points per game, about double last season.
One of the reasons, Moore said, was the improvement of the offensive line.
“Our offensive line is getting better and better every week,” he said.
The line helped sophomore Jermaine Newton rush for 208 yards on 15 carries and score three TDs against Bossier.
Newton scored the Tigers’ first touchdown during a rainy first quarter on a 60-yard run after breaking free of a tackle near the line of scrimmage.
“Jermaine was just incredible,” Moore said. “The kid’s unbelievable. He had a run up our sideline headed toward the fieldhouse. He hopped on one leg to stay inbounds and planted and went back. It was pretty impressive watching him run tonight. He’s gotten better every week.”
With the rain, it wasn’t a good night for throwing the football. Still, sophomore Garrett Hable hit Clayton Festavan over the middle and he took it 60 yards for a TD in the second quarter. Brooks Cram added both extra points and the Tigers led 14-0 at the half.
But Bossier, which was competitive in almost all of its district games, didn’t quit. The Bearkats drove 69 yards in eight plays for a TD on Keimun Daniels’ 7-yard run. The PAT failed and Benton led 14-6 with 7:28 left in the third quarter.
Dorsavion Williams quickly got the momentum back for the Tigers, returning the kickoff to the Bossier 4.
“Somebody actually had him wrapped up,” Moore said. “He hit it hard. “We wedged blocked it pretty good. He hit that sideline and he hit another gear we hadn’t seen in awhile.”
Newton scored on the next play. The Tigers added two more touchdowns in the third quarter on another 4-yard run by Newton and a 6-yard run by Josh Little.
Benton did a good job of shutting down the Bearkats’ Wing-T attack, but Aareon Smallwood went over 1,000 yards on the season with 37 on nine carries.
Needless to say, Moore is excited about his team’s prospects headed into the playoffs.
“I like where we are,” he said. “Our defense is getting stops when we need them. There are still some times on both sides of the ball when we have a mental lapse, but for the most part our guys are starting to figure it out. It’s a good time to be playing well.”
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org