Freshman Hornets try to complete unbeaten season at Benton tonight

File photo by Kevin Nagle

The Bryant Hornets freshman team will try to close out an undefeated season tonight when they travel to play the rival Benton Panthers in what could be called “The Junior Salt Bowl”. The game will kick off about 30 minutes after an eighth-grade game between Benton and the Bryant Blue Hornets of Bethel Middle School, which starts at 5:30 p.m.

Both games will be streamed live on Jim Gardner, voice of the Benton Panthers and Rob Patrick, voice of the Bryant Hornets, will team up on the broadcast of the freshman game.

The Benton freshmen come into the game 7-2 overall and 6-2 in Central Arkansas Junior High Conference play. The Panthers have won four games in a row since a 20-8 loss to North Little Rock.

At 9-0 overall and 8-0 in league play, the Hornets have already clinched at least a share of the conference championship. A victory tonight will give them the title outright. It would be the fourth conference championship in a row for Bryant freshman teams under head coach Kenny Horn who has led the Hornets to 87 wins and just 12 losses since being promoted to the job in 2008, after serving as defensive coordinator before that.

It would be the second year in a row that a freshman Hornet team has gone undefeated. Along with the 2016 team’s unbeaten run, Bryant was 10-0 in 2011 and 9-0-1 in 2007.

Though Benton leads the series between the two rivals 18-16-1 since 1986 when two Benton junior highs combined into one. Bryant, however, has won that last four and 13 out of 14 since 2004.

The Panthers average 34 points a game while giving up 15. The Hornets average 42 points a game while allowing an average of 7.

Benton has accumulated 1,426 yards on 210 rushes and 1,139 yards on 71 of 112 passing. Michael Jefferson leads the Panthers with 628 yards on 71 runs. Quarterback Garrett Brown has thrown for 1,022 yards on 67 of 100 passes. Jefferson is the top receiver as well with 30 catches for 566 yards.

Defensively, the Panthers have given up 704 yards on the ground and 841 yards through the air.

Bryant has picked up 1,244 yards on 161 rushing attempts while passing for 1,423 yards on 55 of 93 throws. Austin Ledbetter paces the attack with 356 yards and eighth touchdowns rushing on 38 tries while passing for 1,422 yards and 22 touchdowns, going 54 of 87. River Gregory leads the team in receptions with 18 for 523 yards.

The Hornets’ defense has surrendered 554 yards rushing and 457 yards passing.

Benton has forced 19 turnovers while giving up eight while Bryant has forced 13 turnovers while committing three.

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