Benton’s season opener might not have gone quite the way coach Reynolds Moore scripted, but things turned out very well in the end.
Despite some occasional sloppy play and mistakes, the Tigers routed the Green Oaks Giants 51-0 Friday night at Tiger Stadium. The game was a far cry from last season, when Benton had to rally from nine points down in the third quarter.
Benton led 23-0 at the half and put the game away with a touchdown early in the third quarter.
Juniors Doyle Adams Jr. and Jermaine Newton had big nights, and the Tigers defense completely shut the Giants down.
Adams returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown. He almost had another one but was stopped inside the 5. Adams also caught a short TD pass.
Newton, an 1,000-yard rusher last season, gained 135 yards on 18 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per carry, and scored two touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Garrett Hable didn’t have one of his best night’s statistically, but he tossed three touchdown passes. In addition to Adams, John Westmoreland and Bubba Osby were on the receiving end of those.
Special teams played a big role in the victory. The Tigers blocked a punt, and Brooks Cram made all seven of his PAT attempts. Cram also kicked two kickoffs into the end zone.
“Our punt return team did a great job,” Moore said. “Kickoff kept our defense in good shape. Our kickoff team was very physical.”
One of the things that pleased Moore the most is that the defense, which returned just a handful of starters, was physically dominant.
The defense consistently made stops that helped the Tigers win the field-position battle.
“They got the ball back for us, either on the plus side of the 50 or just on the minus side a whole bunch,” he said.
Kemone Perry returned an interception to the 6-yard line. According to Benton’s official stats, he also led the team with four tackles. TJ Anderson, Jake Maranto, Jackson Mathews and Sam Simmons had three apiece. Anderson had two sacks and Mathews one. Simmons recovered a fumble.
All told, 21 Tiger were in on at least one tackle.
But they were some negatives, Moore said, which is typical for a first game.
Benton failed to score on four trips deep inside Green Oaks territory in the first half, he said.
“Part of that was me being stubborn, trying to get some things going in the passing game and not running the ball when I should have,” Moore said. “That’s on me. With a three touchdown lead at that time I kind of wanted to work on some things while we could.”
Both the Tiger and Giants were hurt by penalties. Last week’s jamboree was cancelled, and Moore believes that kept the Tigers from working out some of the kinks.
“We have some things to clean up,” he said. “I think that was our jamboree. I don’t mean that negatively. I just mean that’s our chance to kind of see what we can do, clean things up. Lot of silly penalties we don’t normally have. I didn’t like that at all and we’ll have to address that.”
Moore said the silver lining is that the Tigers won big despite all the mistakes.
Benton hosts Natchitoches Central on Friday. The Chiefs, which lost their opener 43-29 to Benton’s District 1-4A rival North Desoto, were the only team to defeat the Tigers in the regular season last year.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org