BENTON, Ar. — Maybe it would have been different if Lake Hamilton hadn’t dropped a touchdown pass on its first possession of the game Friday night against Benton at Everett Field.
It was an Omen! Benton’s junior quarterback Cline Hooten and former Lakeside running back Braylen Russell accounted for all the offense the Panthers would need. Benton’s defense frustrated the Wolves’ three red zone adventures, and Benton dominated the Class 5A secord round playoff game, 31-0.
Benton scored all the points it would need with a 13-play drive in the first quarter. Russell plowed over from six yards with 2:44 left in the opening quarter.
The Panthers scored twice in the second quarter. The first score was a 68-yard drive with Russell once again accounting for most of the yardage, including the final three for his second six-pointer.
Benton made it frustrating for Wolves
The host team was pinned back to its own 20 after a 52-yard punt by junior Easton Hurley. On second down Hooten hit Kade Lewallen on a 52-yard scoring pass and the PAT made it 21-0. Hooten completed 20- of -23 passes for nearly 300 yards. The Wolves’ senior Caleb Waller stopped another Benton threat with an interception in the final seconds of the first half.
Another Lake Hamilton threat went unrewarded during final seconds of half. The Wolves had a first-and-goal at the 9. They had two opportunities to score from the 1, but Justin Crutchmer was stacked up for a 1-yard loss on fourth down.
Lake Hamilton (9-3) started the third quarter with a fumble and recovery by the Panthers. The Wolves came up with their best defensive stand at the start of the second half, but Benton was threatening again after the fumble. Russell scored his third touchdown four plays later.
The Wolves drove from their 44 to the Benton 11 before turning the ball over on downs. That staged an incredible 20-play drive by the Panthers. A holding penalty and dropped pass resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Garrett Honeycutt.
The outcome of the game was forgotten temporarily when three players (Wyatt Wolf for Lake Hamilton) were injured and taken to a local hospital via ambulance. When play resumed the Wolves drove inside the red zone only to be frustrated again when Gavin Thomason was mauled for a 5-yard loss on fourth down.
Benton (9-2) outgained the Wolves 412 to 210. Crutchmer rushed for 45 yards on seven carries, while Kendrick Martin gained 45 on seven totes. Hurley had a rough night, completing only 2-of-13 passes for 17 yards.
The Panthers go on to play Greenwood next Friday.