Since Benton’s 42-3 loss to cross-county rival Bryant in the Salt Bowl on August 28th, the Panthers (4-1, 2-0) have reeled off four wins in a row and are one of the state’s top offenses averaging 55 points per game. The first true test of 6A West play comes to Panther Stadium Friday night as the Little Rock Parkview Patriots (3-2, 1-1) look to get back in the winning column coming off of a 24-14 defeat to Lake Hamilton: its only on-field loss, the other due to a forfeiture to Little Rock Southwest.
Lake Hamilton and Benton are currently tied for the top spot in the 6A West. The Patriots are still very much in the race, but a loss would create an uphill climb to win the conference crown as we are nearing the final month of the regular season before postseason play begins.
Panthers senior quarterback Stran Smith has spearheaded the offense and been one of the most, if not the most, consistent signal callers in the state completing 66% of his passes for 1,368 yards and a perfect TD/INT ratio of 15 touchdowns compared to 0 interceptions. “Stran is as solid of a quarterback as anyone in the state,” Panthers head coach Brad Harris mentioned. “He is a good decision maker and uses his legs well to extend plays.”
Smith’s top target, Cam Harris, has been exceptional snagging 27 passes for 519 yards (19 YPR) and 7 scores. He caught 3 touchdowns on 7 receptions for 213 yards against Siloam Springs last Friday and has averaged 112 yards and 2 scores per game the last three weeks.
The Johnson & Johnson duo of Casey and Brandon both average over 9 yards per carry on the ground. Defensively Benton has allowed 16 points per game during the win streak and so long as the offense scores at least half of what it has been averaging, then the Panthers will be in great position to win plenty more games.
Parkview took down defending 6A champion Greenwood on September 23rd at War Memorial in the conference opener and was handed the previously mentioned sanctions by the Arkansas Activities Association the following day before falling to Lake Hamilton seven days after that.
Despite the adversity, head coach Brad Bolding knows his team has not lost focus: “We have not blinked an eye over the forfeiture,” Bolding mentioned. “The Lake Hamilton loss on the other hand is something that has motivated our guys. They know they did not get off of the bus until the 3rd quarter, and you can not do that against a really good team. We are constantly pushing our team to be the best they can be everyday.”
Quarterback/safety Jaylon White contributed to both of Parkview’s touchdowns last week, one on the ground and the other to wide receiver Parker Perry. Perry caught four total passes for 106 yards plus the score and Razorback commit James Jointer was the Patriots’ leading rusher with 71 yards on 10 carries against the Wolves.
The Benton offense will be facing its stiffest test since the Salt Bowl going up against a Parkview defensive unit allowing just 12.3 points per game and has pitched two shutouts already this year. The pass rush of Isaiah McKenzie and Jude Onuoha has put a lot stress on opposing offensive lines and sophomore Alex Martin has made a name for himself during his young career with a 20-yard scoop & score to his name. The secondary led by White (Ole Miss commit) along with Trent Bennett, Xavier Branch, Josh Johnson, Tayvion Henry, and Kyveon Perkins has been a consistent group with plenty of reliable depth.
“Our offense has been very productive the last four weeks and we know this week we have a challenge going up against a very good Parkview defense,” Harris mentioned. “We will need to continue to take care of the football and be balanced to have a chance to win.”
Current 6A West Standings
Benton 4-1 (2-0)
Lake Hamilton 5-0 (2-0)
Greenwood 3-2 (1-1)
LR Parkview 3-2 (1-1)
Russellville 3-2 (1-1)
Van Buren 4-1 (1-1)
Mountain Home 1-4 (0-2)
Siloam Springs 1-4 (0-2)
Article published by Kyle Sutherland, @k_sutherlandHTP on Twitter