BENTON — It was a tale of two halves Tuesday night. In the first 14 minutes, the Bryant Blue Hornets of Bethel Middle School and the Benton Panthers eighth grade team combined for a whopping 456 yards of offense and 63 points. In the second half, only 7 points was scored between the two teams.
It was a clinching touchdown for the Hornets in a 42-28 win to wrap up the 2013 season. After piling up its 28 points and 191 yards of offense in the first half, the Panthers were shutout and limited to a net of 51 yards in the second.
Bethel’s Mike Jones and Diante Woodson both racked up over 100 yards rushing. Jones finished with 190 on 15 carries with four touchdowns. Woodson finished with 170 yards on just nine carries with two TDs, even though he only ran the ball once in the second half before being sidelined with an injury.
In the end, the Hornets had 415 yards of offense and a season-high 42 points in a game with seven-minute quarters. On 36 rushes, they picked up 383 yards.
“I was really proud of the guys tonight,” stated Bethel coach Dale Jones, whose team finished the season 7-2. “They played so hard. It was a nice way to cap off the season, winning over a very good Benton team.
“Offensively, it was the most complete game we have played since I’ve been at Bethel,” the coach added. “We ran the ball extremely well, especially Mike and Diante.
“I thought Jonathan Smith played really well on defense in the second half,” he related. “Luke Welch did a great job on kickoffs, placing the ball in the corners. It helped make it hard on Benton, having to drive a long ways.”
The Hornets got the first possession of the night when they recovered an onside kick. On the third play of their opening series, Jones set sail on a 36-yard touchdown run. Welch added the extra point.
Benton answered with an 86-yard drive, all on the ground. Beau Brewer scored on a 29-yard scamper and Tyler Vandiver tied it with an extra point.
Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown but an illegal block along the way negated most of the return. Unfazed, the Hornets scored on the very next snap as Woodson sprinted 61 yards to make it 13-7 with 2:58 left in the first quarter.
Benton was a little more thunder to Bethel’s lightning strikes. A nine-play, 64-yard drive drew the Panthers even and when Vandiver followed up the 1-yard plunge by Bryson Krebs with an extra point, they held a 14-13 edge.
Benton converted a third down early in the drive when quarterback Graham Chenault completed a 9-yard pass to Brewer. Later, on a fourth-and-1 at the Bethel 16, Krebs muscled for a 2-yard gain and the first down. A 13-yard pass from Chenault to Brewer set up Krebs’ TD.
Of course, it didn’t stay 14-13 long. On the second play of the Hornets’ subsequent series, Woodson exploited a seam in the Benton defense and raced 65 yards for another score.
Parker Littleton ran in the conversion and Bethel held a 21-14 advantage.
Benton covered the Hornets’ onside kick and, on the first play from the 50, Chenault passed under pressure. The ball fluttered and appeared to be up for grabs. But the only one that got a hand on it was wide receiver Clayton Maertens to split the secondary and rolled in for another TD.
Vandiver made it 21-21 with 5:07 still to play in the half.
The Hornets covered Benton’s onside kick and subsequently drove to the Panthers’ 32 where they faced a fourth-and-4. Jones, at quarterback, faked a handoff and kept around the left side, lacing his way to another score. Though the extra point was low, the Hornets held a 27-21 lead.
And when the ensuing kickoff was fumbled, Phillip Isom-Green recovered. Woodson slashed to the 19 then to the 4. A holding penalty pushed them back to the 15, negating Woodson’s touchdown run. But Jones kept for 10 yards and, after Woodson sliced to the 1, the quarterback scored on a sneak.
Jones then tossed a pass to Parker Littleton for the two-point conversion to make it 35-21.
But any thoughts that the Hornets would have a comfortable lead going into the half, were put in jeopardy when Tristan Hutchinson returned the kickoff 65 yards to the Bryant 19.
With :13 left, Chenault passed 7 yards to Jordan Witcher, who got out of bounds to stop the clock with :05 showing. With one last shot, Chenault found Maertens with a 12-yard touchdown pass as time expired.
Vandiver added the extra point and it was 35-28 going into the second half.
The Hornets got the ball to start the third quarter and, behind the running of Jones and Littleton, reached the Benton 21. On the next play, Woodson was injured.
An 11-yard pass from Jones to Seth Tate put Bethel in position to score again at the 8. But, a play later, a fumble ended the threat as Benton’s Jared Hastings recovered at the 8.
The Panthers picked up a first down on an 18-yard pass from Chenault to Brewer to convert a third-and-10. But the drive stalled there. A third-down pass was knocked down by Cameron Vail and the Panthers were forced to punt.
Vail’s 21-yard pass to Matt Sandidge put the Hornets in position to score again but the Benton defense stepped up with a pair of lost-yardage plays. And when Vail’s 10-yard run wasn’t enough to convert a fourth-and-17, the Panthers got the ball back.
The appeared to have something going as Brewer dashed for 8 yards and Chenault kept for 9 to the Hornets’ 46. On the next play, however, a big hit on Chenault as he got into the secondary forced a fumble that Vail recovered with 5:02 left in the game.
The Hornets took advantage. A play into the series, Jones set sail on a 53-yard touchdown run that, with Welch’s kick, set the final score.
Sacks by Jonathan Santos and Smith on consecutive plays dashed the Panthers’ hopes of cutting into the lead.
Benton used its timeouts in a bid to get the ball back after Brewer’s punt. But with Jones now running at tailback, runs of 5, 6 and 9 yards helped negate a first-down penalty and eat up the Panthers’ timeouts.
BRYANT BLUE 42, BENTON 28
Score by quarters
BETHEL 13 22 0 7 — 42
Benton 7 21 0 0 — 28
BETHEL — Jones 36 run (Welch kick), 5:51
BENTON — Brewer 29 run (Vandiver kick), 3:27
BETHEL — Woodson 61 run (kick failed), 2:58
BENTON — Krebs 1 run (Vandiver kick), 6:33
BETHEL — Woodson 65 run (Littleton run), 5:29
BENTON — Maertens 50 pass from Chenault (Vandiver kick), 5:07
BETHEL — Jones 32 run (kick failed), 2:33
BETHEL — Jones 1 run (Littleton pass from Jones), 0:24
BENTON — Maertens 12 pass from Chenault (Vandiver kick), 0:00
BETHEL — Jones 53 run (Welch kick), 4:07
First downs 13 13
Rushes-yds 36-383 24-133
Passing 2-2-0 6-9-0
Passing yds 32 109
Punts-avg. 0-00.0 2-32.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-3
Penalties-yds 3-26 0-0
Rushing: BETHEL, Jones 15-190, Woodson 9-170, Littleton 5-19, Smith 4-7, Vail 3-(-3); BENTON, Brewer 6-55, Krebs 9-49, Chenault 9-29.
Passing (C-A-I-Y): BETHEL, Vail 1-1-0-21, Jones 1-1-0-11; BENTON, Chenault 6-9-0-109.
Receiving: BETHEL, Sandidge 1-21, Tate 1-11; BENTON, Brewer 3-41, Maertens 2-62, Witcher 1-7.