Remembering: Salt Bowl 2 – Playoff bound: Hornets 28, Panthers 23

As part of the countdown to the 10th Salt Bowl, will feature the game stories published in the Bryant Times about the first nine. We’ll post new ones each day. Salt Bowl II was played on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2001 at Benton’s C.W. Lewis Stadium. There were two stories.

— Rob



BENTON — In the 28 years that the Bryant Hornets and the Benton Panthers have been playing, Benton has won 22 times including 14 in a row at one point. Many times, it seemed, at least to Bryant folks, that Benton got all the breaks. The Hornets would be on the verge of victory but something catastrophic would happen.

On Thursday, Nov. 1, the Hornets finally got a few breaks against their arch-rivals and, for the first time in the series, won for a third straight season with a gut-wrenching, come-from-behind 28-23 victory at C.W. Lewis Stadium.[more]

With a playoff berth on the line, it was, perhaps, as important as any Bryant-Benton game has ever been for both teams. And the Hornets, matching Benton’s 7-3 overall record and 4-3 AAAAA-South Conference mark, earned the trip, their second in the last three years. They’ll play at Conway in the first round on Nov. 9.

Benton, trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since 1997, is finished for the season.

About those breaks:

The most obvious ones were a pair of touchdown passes — three passes altogether — that were tipped by Benton defenders and caught by Bryant receivers. Twice during Bryant’s 28-point run that negated the Panthers 17-0 lead, senior Jonathan Jameson kept his concentration and hauled in Lance Parker passes.

Also, Benton’s 17-0 margin could’ve been a bigger hill for the Hornets to climb had a touchdown not been called back because of penalty.

With the Panthers up 7-0, there was an interception return by Benton’s Blake Carlson that was negated by an illegal block. The Panthers got the ball at the Bryant 43 and wound up attempting a 50-yard field goal that was short.

Later, after Bryant had rallied for a 21-17 lead (including Jameson’s two tipped TD receptions), the Panthers appeared to have a go-ahead touchdown when Carlson crossed the goal line on a 7-yard run. But a holding penalty brought the play back. Three plays later, the Panthers’ Jared Little attempted a 35-yard field goal and missed it to the right.

There have been years when those tipped passes would’ve been interceptions and those penalties would’ve been missed.

The intensity of the game made it that much sweeter for the Hornets to win. It didn’t look good for Bryant in the first half. The Panthers, with a large, experienced offensive line and the bullish tandem of 6-2, 245 Luke Woodard and 6-0, 240 Patrick Heffner in the backfield, controlled the football in the first quarter and drove for an opening touchdown. After Woodard’s 22-yard run early in the drive, the longest play of the drive gained 8 yards.

The Hornets appeared to have Benton stopped at the 1 when a fourth-and-1 run by Woodard from the 2 came up short of the goal line. The officials even signaled that the Hornets had held. The defense flew off the field in celebration but had to return when the Panther coaching staff asked for a measurement and it was discovered that the run had garnered a first down.

Two plays later, however, the Panthers were no closer. On third-and-goal, the Hornets even dropped Woodard for a loss.

After a timeout to consider a field goal or going for it, the Panthers got Woodard through to the end zone by inches. Little kicked it to 7-0.

The two teams traded punts then Carlson picked off a Parker pass after the Hornets picked up their initial first down of the game early in the second quarter.

Linebacker Alex Pudinas made a crucial defensive play during the ensuing series as the Hornets forced Little’s unsuccessful field goal attempt. On a second-and-10 at the 28, Pudinas dropped Benton quarterback Bryan Greer for a loss back to the 32.

Bryant's ensuing possession ended with another interception by Blake Whittle. His return to the Bryant 22 was whittled by an illegal block penalty but, on the first play from the 38, the Hornets were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. A play later, Heffner rumbled 12 yards for a score. Little booted the PAT and it was 14-0.

A short punt gave Benton a chance to add a field goal as Little drilled a 36-yarder with 1:32 left in the half.

Down by three scores with just one first down and two turnovers to that point, the Hornets were under the gun as they got the ball at their 20. Two incomplete passes later, they needed a big play and they got it. Senior Matt White, the school’s all-time leading rusher, broke a 29-yard run to near midfield.

Two plays later, however, the Hornets faced a third-and-6 at the Benton 47 with time running out. Parker, just 3-of-10 to that point, connected with A.J. Nixon on a 36-yard strike to the Benton 11. After another pair of incompletions, it was again third down and, once more, the Hornets came through in the clutch. Parker escaped the blitzing Panthers with a roll-out right and fired to Nixon for the touchdown that made it 17-6 at the half.

The momentum that the Hornets gained from that drive was heightened by Nixon’s 52-yard return of the second-half kickoff. From the Benton 45, White burst for 15 then 5. Parker scrambled for 4 to set up a third-and-1 at the 21. But two tries from there were stopped as the Benton defense stepped up.

In turn, however, the Bryant defense responded by separating Woodard from the football at the 26. Jason Rose, who made a team-high 16 tackles in the game, recovered.

A pass to Brandon St. Pierre moved the ball to the 12 where, a play later, Parker threw into the end zone. Benton’s Zach Rundle got a hand on it as he tried to stay with Jameson. But it went off Rundle’s hands. Jameson adjusted in a split second and held on as the ball plopped into his hands for the touchdown.

Parker passed to St. Pierre on a successful 2-point conversion and it was 17-14.

Benton got a good return from Josh Donnelly on the ensuing kickoff. Starting at the Bryant 35, however, the Panthers managed just 4 yards in three plays against the charged up Hornets’ defense.

Little punted into the end zone and Bryant’s offense revved up again. Parker and Nixon combined on completions of 45 and 14 yards and, a play later, Parker rolled right looking for Jameson down the right sideline. The pass appeared to be short and the Panther defender went up attempting to intercept. But the ball deflected high into the air and right to Jameson standing behind two Benton players for the go-ahead touchdown.

Anthony Moreno added the extra point to make it 21-17.

Benton’s hopes began to dwindle when a clipping penalty on the kickoff forced the offense to start at its own 13. Carlson was stopped for no gain by defensive tackle Aaron Johnson then Woodard squeezed ahead for 2 yards. On third down, Greer’s pass fell incomplete but St. Pierre, coming up from his safety position, had miss-timed his hit on the receiver and got there too early. The interference penalty kept the Benton drive alive.

Still, two plays later, the Panthers faced a third-and-10 at the 30. That’s when Greer completed his first pass of the game, a 36-yarder to Chris Boggs.

The Panthers eventually reached the 7 where Carlson’s TD run was negated by penalty and Little’s resulting field-goal attempt failed.

The Panthers got a reprieve when Richard Campbell intercepted a pass at the Bryant 30. But two plays later, Bryant safety Shea Rentch picked off Greer at the 25.

That set up the decisive touchdown drive. White got it started with runs of 8, 3 and 17 yards. Parker, later, converted a third-and-3 from the Benton 40 with a 17-yard scramble which set up his 22-yard touchdown pass to Nixon and the Hornets’ 28-17 lead.

Benton responded with a passing game that hadn’t been utilized to that point. Greer completed 4-of-5 passes on a 67-yard drive including an 18-yard completion to Carlson for the touchdown — a pass that Rentch nearly picked off.

A run for a 2-point conversion was stopped as Heffner was buried short of the goal-line.

With 3:48 left, the Hornets figured to just run the clock out. Later, head coach Daryl Patton said that’s what he should’ve done but admitted he wasn’t sure his team could do it against the defensive alignment Benton employed. In hopes of burning the Panthers, Patton called three pass plays. Parker scrambled for 3 yards on first down but the next two passes fell incomplete and stopped the clock.

The Hornets were forced to punt and, after Carlson’s 25-yard return, the Panthers had the football 50 yards away from a lead with plenty of time — 3:17 was on the clock.

Bryant cornerback Kevin Littleton dropped Greer for a 1-yard loss then Pudinas foiled an attempt at a lateral from Greer to Carlson to set up a trick pass play. Pudinas had Carlson covered and Greer had to throw the ball away.

A third-down pass was incomplete and so was a fourth-down pass. But, on the fourth-down play, Rentch were flagged for interference and, with 2:55 left, Benton still had life.

A run by Woodard failed to fool the Hornets then with end Eric Scott bearing down on him, Greer had to throw away a second down pass. On third down, Greer was sacked by Johnson.

On fourth-and-10 from the Bryant 35, the Panthers went for the end zone and Carlson appeared to have a window down the left sideline. But Littleton stayed with him and knocked the ball down at the goal line as the Hornets held on.

And, in the end, with White running the ball and Benton picking up a pair of face mask penalties, the Hornets were able to run out the final 1:25.


Score by quarters

BRYANT 0 6 15 7 — 28

Benton 7 10 0 6 — 23

Scoring summary

First quarter

BENTON — Woodard 2 run (Little kick), 3:41Second quarter

BENTON — Heffner 12 run (Little kick), 5:11

BENTON — Little 43 field goal, 1:32

BRYANT — Nixon 11 pass from Parker (kick failed), 0:08

Third quarter

BRYANT — Jameson 12 pass from Parker (St.Pierre pass from Parker), 9:22

BRYANT — Jameson 21 pass from Parker (Moreno kick), 6:13

Fourth quarter

BRYANT — Nixon 22 pass from Parker (Moreno kick), 5:25

BENTON — Carlson 18 pass from Greer (run failed), 3:50

Team stats


First downs 17 16

Rushes-yds. 27-114 49-168

Passing 12-27-3 5-18-1

Passing yds. 194 93

Punts 3-32.3 2-45.5

Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1

Penalties-yds. 6-62 7-82


Rushing: BRYANT, M.White 15-95, Parker 7-15, Peeler 3-3, St.Pierre 2-1; BENTON, Woodard 35-144, Heffner 4-22, Carlson 3-8, Greer 7-(-6).

Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT, Parker 12-26-3-194, Peeler 0-1-0-0; BENTON, Greer 5-17-1-93, Carlson 0-1-0-0.

Receiving: BRYANT, Nixon 5-128, St.Pierre 4-28, Jameson 3-38; BENTON, Boggs 2-39, Haltom 1-27, Carlson 1-18, Woodard 1-9.

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