BENTON — The Benton protection struggled for many of their 6A-East Conference sport Friday in opposition to West Memphis, however when it was wanted most, the group stood agency.
Benton received key stops and a turnover late to defeat West Memphis 55-38 on the Benton Athletic Complex.
In the primary 11 minutes it appeared as if Benton (7:2, 7:1) would obtain a transparent victory. The Panthers led 17-0 after two particular groups miscues from West Memphis (6-3, 5-3).
But then the West Memphis offense discovered its groove. Led by senior large receiver Jarrell Shephard, the Blue Devils scored 4 straight touchdowns to make it 24-17.
“I think we were a little happy and they were a little excited,” mentioned Benton coach Brad Harris. “They played the rest really well [first] half.”
Shephard dominated virtually each defensive again the Panthers placed on him Friday night time, totaling 16 catches for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns.
“The guy can really play,” Harris mentioned. “We knew they throw soccer very well, have some actually good receivers, we knew that [Shephard] was actually gifted. It’s most likely one among our weaknesses… We struggle in the back of our protection to cowl actually good gamers. Receivers get us, they usually received us all night time.”
On Benton’s second offensive snap from the scoring run, junior running back Braylen Russell ran for 38 yards to score, leveling the game 24-24.
Shephard and West Memphis scored on their next offensive drive, but Benton’s Maddox Davis caught an end from about 14 yards to level the game by 31 points.
At 9:26 in the fourth quarter, Russell Benton gave his first lead since the 7:31 mark in the second quarter with a 40-yard burst through the West Memphis defensive line.
Overall, West Memphis was able to keep Russell, a consensus four-star prospect, at bay, but his two long runs came at awkward times for a Blue Devils team looking to maintain momentum.
“He’s stopping runs the place we’re in place or the place we should always have been in place,” West Memphis coach Robert Hooks said. “It simply does not get carried out.”
“They did a very good job on him,” Harris said. “We knew they had been going to attempt to take Braylen away, most groups will try this. But huge backs, good backs like Braylen, he’ll discover one ultimately.”
Russell finished with 147 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.
On West Memphis’ next drive, Benton’s Patrick Shipp intercepted quarterback Keland Mills to give his team the ball inside the 20-yard line. Benton quarterback Cline Hooten soon found wide receiver Elias Payne for a touchdown to make it 45-31.
With momentum returning in their favor, the Panthers forced a crucial stop on the Blue Devils’ subsequent drive to line up with another small field. Benton was held to a field goal and made it 48-31.
“I used to be very happy with how our boys reacted within the second half,” Harris said. “We have not had a sport like this for a very long time. We gained 35 [points] within the third quarter of most video games so it was good to have a sport like that, we wanted that.”
Shephard and Mills weren’t ready to lie down yet. Mills fired the ball midfield and found Shephard for 62 yards on West Memphis’ next drive to make it 48-38.
Mills finished the night with 473 yards and four touchdowns. Mills also rushed for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
The comeback effort wouldn’t last long as Benton running back Chris Barnard ran for 45 yards to score and make it 55-38.
Gallery: HS Football: Benton vs. West Memphis