Photos by Kevin Nagle
The unbeaten Benton Junior High Panthers eighth grade team built a 20-0 lead before its offense had even had a single snap on its side of the 50. The Panthers wound up scoring on seven of eight possessions on the way to a 49-0 victory.
The Hornets finished with a net of 3 yards of total offense with two turnovers including one on the last play of the game that was run in for a touchdown by Panther defensive lineman Jaden Woodbright.
Benton put eight defenders in the box (within five yards of the line of scrimmage) and had them all charging aggressively at the Hornets’ offense. It proved to be more than the Bethel blockers could handle.
On the second play of the first series of the game, a bad pitch was recovered by the Panthers at the Hornets’ 24. Two passes from Benton quarterback Peyton Hudgins to Gavin Wells covered the yardage for a touchdown. And, with an extra point by Alan Vargas, it was 7-0 less than two minutes into the contest.
In turn, the Hornets ran three plays and set up to punt. But a low snap resulted in punter Jonathan Giron falling on the ball at the Bethel 28. Despite a holding penalty, the Panthers scored again. This time on a 31-yard run by Hudgins.
Trailing 14-0, the Hornets went for it on fourth down from their own 37 trying to get something going but quarterback Jake Meaders was stopped well short and the Panthers took over 38 yards away from more points.
Again, it took just two plays. This time, Daeshawn Ward covered the final 27 yards on a reverse.
Suddenly, it was 20-0 and the Hornets had hardly settled in. They picked up their initial first down on runs by Meaders and Dalen McDonald but the next three running play resulted in losses and the Panthers took over on downs at the Blue 43.
The Hornets, sparked by defensive end Will Hope, forced Benton to turn it back over on downs and, two plays into the subsequent possession, Meaders broke a 31-yard scramble to the Benton 28.
But Bethel could get no further. When a fourth-down pass fell incomplete, Benton had it again. The Panthers’ first snap on their own end produced a 6-yard run by Ward. Two plays later, Hudgins found Ward deep down the middle for a 51-yard touchdown pass that, with the extra point, made it 27-0 with less than a minute left in the half.
The Hornets were unable to pick up a first down in the second half. In fact, they ran just three offensive plays in the time in which the Panthers increased the lead to 42-0. Bethel made a bid to stop the first drive when, on a third-and-1 at the Hornets’ 16, a bad snap pushed the Panthers back to the 31. But Hudgins passed to Cade Clark for a TD on fourth down.
The second drive covered 65 yards on six plays. D’Anthony Harper scored on a 43-yard run.
It was the only game this season in which Bryant Blue was shutout. The Hornets finished the season 3-5.