Courtesy of Jim Gardner
BENTON — Thursday evening at Everett Field in Benton, two unbeaten 8th grade teams battled. Benton and Bryant Blue both entered with spotless 6-0 records. And the teams put on a show worthy of two undefeated teams with the Panthers scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat the Hornets, 30-22.
The Panthers received the opening kickoff and took just five plays to score. O’Marcus King raced 31 yards for a touchdown and ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 Benton lead.
The Hornets answered on a five-play drive of their own that covered 53 yards. Bryant quarterback Jordan Walker punched in a one-yard run, but a two-point conversion pass failed leaving Benton ahead 8-6.
Benton immediately answered on the first play of their next possession when Elias Payne took a handoff and scored on a 67-yard jaunt. The two-point conversion was stuffed by Bryant’s E.J. Keith and Benton led 14-6.
The Hornets tied it with 1:49 remaining in the first half when Carter Ratliff intercepted a Benton pass and returned it 60 yards for a pick-six. Jaysean Robinson ran in the conversion to tie the score at 14-all.
Bryant received the kickoff to open the second half and took the lead on a four-play drive. Robinson broke four tackles on his way to a 25-yard touchdown. Jonathan Frost caught a conversion pass in traffic from Walker to give Bryant a 22-14 lead which stood through the end of the quarter.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, the Hornets faced a fourth-and-one at their own 49-yard line. Parker Glaze stuffed a Robinson run to give Benton the ball in Hornet territory.
Benton took advantage. On the sixth play of the ensuing drive, Payne scored on a five-yard run and converted the two-point play on another run to tie the game at 22 with 3:50 remaining.
On the fifth play of Bryant’s next possession, Walker was picked off by Panther cornerback Julius Stinson who returned it 38 yards to the Bryant 42-yard line. Benton quarterback Maddox Davis found Quentin Godley alone over the middle for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 0:58 seconds remaining. Payne ran in the conversion to give Benton a 30-22 lead.
Frost returned the kickoff following the Panther score 25 yards to the Bryant 48-yard line. But on first down, Walker’s pass was intercepted by Godley at the Benton 32-yard line. The Panthers took a knee on the game’s final play to secure the win.
Payne was the game’s leading rusher with 139 yards on 12 carries. For Bryant, Robinson carried 12 times for 96 yards. Bryant linebacker J.T. Allen played outstanding with a game-high 11 tackles.