Remembering: Salt Bowl 6 — Hornets make Panthers earn 14-7 win

As part of the countdown to the 10th Salt Bowl, is featuring the game stories published in the Bryant Times about the first nine. New ones are posted each day. Salt Bowl VI marked the first and only time so far that Benton has taken the trophy home. It was played on Aug. 30, 2005, at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. — Rob



LITTLE ROCK — When two evenly matched football teams get after it, the outcome often comes down to special teams play. And such was the case when the seventh-ranked Benton Panthers and the Bryant Hornets tangled at War Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 30, in the season-opener for both teams.

Benton’s Nick Hendrix blocked a punt inside the Bryant 10 and Bryan Vick picked it up and scored what proved to be the winning touchdown as the Panthers ended a six-year drought against the Hornets, 14-7.[more]

Yes, you read it right, "evenly matched." Even though Benton came in with its lofty ranking and an experienced team with 33 seniors, Bryant, with its four returning starters and roughly half as many seniors, battled evenly in a game that many, even in Bryant, thought might be one-sided in Benton’s favor.

Both teams had other chances to score and when the Hornets cut the 14-0 lead to 14-7 on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Mask to Jon Isbell with 5:06 left to play, it looked like the momentum had swung Bryant’s way and anything was possible.

But, on the ensuing kickoff, Benton’s Chris Vaughn broke a 35-yard return to the Bryant 40 to deflate the Hornet hopes a bit. Though the Bryant defense continued to be stingy, Benton, converting a pair of third downs and a four down play, ate up the clock to hold on for the win.

"I’m so proud of the kids," stated Bryant head coach Paul Calley. "I’m disappointed we didn’t win, don’t get me wrong, but (Benton) has a good football team. They’re experienced, we are inexperienced. We made a ton of mistakes but we still gave ourselves a chance to win. We got better. I think we learned a lot. I think we gained some confidence.

"I told them after the game, ‘You don’t have anything to hang your head about. Yeah, we’re all disappointed about losing. But, dad-gum, we played a good football team,’" Calley continued. "Like Coach Griff (Steve Griffith) was saying, ‘We fought a bear with a short stick and stayed right there with him,’ and it’s going to give us confidence down the road."

The game was marred by penalties and mistakes, none the least of the latter by the stadium scoreboard operator (a neutral observer, by the way) who, on several occasions, started the clock early after penalties and first downs, something that cost the Hornets, in particular, at the end of the first half.

Bryant had marched from its own 17 to the Benton 16. Mask and Isbell got the drive started with a 21-yard strike and, after an exchange of penalties, Mask scrambled for 18 yards to midfield. After a holding penalty cost Benton, Mask connected with sophomore wideout Raylen Cantrell for 19 yards to the 16.

That play ended with 20 seconds on the clock. A penalty ended the next play before it started but by the time the Hornets snapped the next play, the clock was somehow down to :05. One last pass fell incomplete as time ran out.

"I was really disappointed," Calley commented. "Several of the officials and even (Benton) Coach (Marc) Jones thought the clock started twice when we had a chance to score. The clock started, we had no timeouts left, but the clock should never have started until the ball was snapped. But we had our chances.

"We never got any breaks and I’ve come to expect that but like I told the kids before the game, we’ve got to make our breaks," continued the coach. "The break that we could’ve made was to stay away from those silly penalties, the holding penalties, the delay penalties, we’ve got to get away from those."

Bryant was flagged 11 times for 66 yards, Benton was penalized 12 times for 96 yards.

"What we have to do is overcome some of those things and get a victory under our belt," Calley asserted. "The next two non-conference games are tough and we’ve got to persevere. We’ve got to get through them and get ready for conference. This game, it’s tough to lose — you hate to lose a rivalry game like this — but it’s not going to affect our chances for a playoff berth."

The Hornets travel to El Dorado on Friday, Sept. 9, then host Russellville on Friday, Sept. 16, before opening AAAAA-Central Conference play at home against Little Rock Catholic.

Benton, despite running a spread offense, made most of its offensive hay on the ground. Senior quarterback Josh Langley was the primary culprit, rushing 24 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. Donovan Clark added 55 yards on 13 tries.

Bryant, on the other hand, passed most effectively with Mask completing 24-of-31 for 225 yards and his team’s TD. He had one interception in the third quarter that Benton was unable to capitalize on. Isbell grabbed eight passes for 53 yards while senior Dustin Holland latched onto 12 aerials for 137 yards.

Still, the Hornets were haunted by a couple of drops that could’ve resulted in points.

In the end, Bryant amassed 292 yards of offense to Benton’s 231.

Benton enjoyed a huge field position advantage much of the first half and, to the Panthers’ credit, it was created by their ability to move the ball. After forcing a Bryant punt from deep in its own end, the Panthers gained possession at the Hornets 40. Langley popped a 16-yard run along the way and Clark pounded for 12 to get the Panthers to the 1.

But, on a third-and-goal, the Hornets’ Zach Sanders and Aaron Hodges turned back Clark for a loss of a yard. On fourth down, Clark was halted by Sanders for no gain and the Hornets took over on downs.

It was a huge lift for a defense that boasted just one returning starter in Sanders, who finished with eight tackles. Senior safety Hunter Hatcher was in on 12 stops and sophomore linebacker Jared Szabad came in off the bench to get in on 12, unofficially.

"The defense played better than I ever thought they could," Calley enthused. "We bent, we bent, we bent but we didn’t break. It was a great effort by our defense."

Bryant, turned the field over with a 56-yard pass and run from Mask to Holland to the Benton 26. A pair of dropped passes, one by a receiver headed into the end zone cost the Hornets there and they turned the ball over on downs at the Benton 20.

The teams exchanged punts with Benton getting the better end of the field position again. A 17-yard return by Greg Noble set the Panthers up at the Hornets’ 40 again. Langley overcame a penalty with a 19-yard scamper then completed a short pass to Matt Fishburn to get to the 13.

Again Bryant’s defense rose up as Clark was dropped for a loss. On the next play, Langley went to the air in the left flat and Bryant cornerback Matt Schrader appeared to make a splendid play to knock the ball down. But the back judge ruled there was interference.

A play later, Langley snaked his way around right end and wriggled into the end zone for the game’s first score.

The Panthers’ Jorge Couto, however, missed the extra point.

The Hornets put together another extended drive in response but came up empty. Senior running back Zack Kellum broke an 18-yard run and a personal foul penalty was tacked on. Moments later, Mask and Holland made connections on a 15-yard pass that converted a third down and got the Hornets to the 25.

Mask completed another pass to Holland and another to Hunter Stobaugh to get to the 13 but the drive stalled there. A 31-yard field goal attempt by sophomore Jordan Knight was long enough but just wide.

Controversy arose again on Benton’s subsequent possession. On a first down at Bryant’s 39, Langley, trying to set up a shovel pass, was hit and the ball came loose. Sanders scooped it up and outran the Panthers for an apparent touchdown. But the play was called back. The officials ruled that Langley’s arm had started forward and it was an incomplete pass instead of a fumble.

The Hornets forced a punt then the final drive of the half unfolded.

Late in the third quarter, Benton’s Julian Watson missed a 28-yard field goal try. Bryant took over at its own 20. On a second down play, Mask tried to pass to Stobaugh who appeared to be interfered with by Benton linebacker Ben Bowers. A flag came out but the penalty was holding against the Hornets. On the next play, another hold negated a completion from Mask to Jake Jackson. From the 7, Mask had to scramble to avoid a safety. On third-and-25 from the 5, Holland hauled in a 15-yard pass to give Bryant punter Cody Williams some breathing room. But the Panthers came after him and the punt was blocked resulting in the second score with :39 left in the period.

Bryant, in turn, drove from its 35 to the Benton 30. A deep pass by Mask from there was just off Holland’s fingertips in the end zone down the left side. Two plays later, a fourth-down pass was stopped short of a first and Benton took over.

The Bryant defense force a three-and-out with Szabad dropping Langley for a loss of 13 on second down then Pierce Tucker and Chris Taylor getting to Langley for a loss of 7 on third down.

Benton punted from its 13 and Bryant got its best field position of the game. The Hornets took advantage too. Mask’s 27-yard strike to Isbell opened the drive. Moments later, Bryant faced a fourth-and-2 at the 13 but Benton jumped offside to keep the drive alive. A play later, Mask and Isbell teamed up for the TD. Knight kicked the PAT to make it 14-7.


Score by quarters

BRYANT 0 0 0 7 — 7

Benton 0 6 8 0 — 14

Scoring summary

Second quarter

BENTON — Langley 5 run (kick failed), 9:20

Third quarter

BENTON — Vick 5 blocked punt return (Clark run), 0:39

Fourth quarter

BRYANT — Isbell 7 pass from Mask (Knight kick), 5:06

Team stats


First downs 14 16

Rushes-yds 14-67 45-210

Passing 24-39-1 4-9-0

Passing yds 225 21

Punts 2-38.0 4-34.5

Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0

Penalties-yds 11-66 12-96


Rushing: BRYANT, Mask 7-34, Kellum 7-33; BENTON, Langley 24-110, Clark 13-55, Vaughn 3-25, Poole 4-20, Wells 1-0.

Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT, Mask 24-39-1-225; BENTON, Langley 4-9-0-21.

Receiving: BRYANT, Holland 12-137, Isbell 8-53, Cantrell 1-19, Stobaugh 1-4; BENTON, L.Brown 2-10, Fishburn 1-9, Hoffman 1-2.

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