By The Natural State Hawg on 11:01 PM
Filed Under: TheNaturalStateHawg
Ah, it was a glorious night at C.W. Lewis Stadium in Benton.
Why? The Benton Panthers won their first conference game of the season against Little Rock's J.A. Fair War Eagles, a team that is actually worse than Benton.
Yes, Benton won 34-26, and they did it for homecoming, too.
Regardless, that was a display of some of the worst high school football I've ever seen. Benton, once a force in central Arkansas football, has been inconsistent (to say the least) since the early 1980s and this current team is one of the worst Benton clubs I've seen take the field.
Ah, but this game was important. Why? It was a battle for dead last in the 6A South -- Benton was o-4 in the division (1-6) going on into the game whereas J.A. Fair was 0-4 (0-7 overall). Having watched these two miserable teams take the field, its no wonder they're both at the bottom of the eight-team division.
Both teams were sloppy and wholly unprepared to play worth a damn. Penalty flags simply rained down all night long, turning a contest that should have been a little over two hours long into a three-hour contest.
A lot of the penalties were stupid, too. J.A. Fair got called for the idiotic sin of not having enough players on the line of scrimmage on offense. The War Eagles also managed to get called for having an ineligible receiver down field and making an illegal substitution. Benton, meanwhile, roughed J.A. Fair's punter well after the fellow made his kick -- a move that gave J.A. Fair a first down, and they capitalized on it, too, by scoring a touchdown.
Benton also managed to throw interceptions to J.A. Fair three times. Two of those turned into touchdowns.
So, Benton essentially handed the ball to J.A. Fair four times. How bad is J.A. Fair, even with all those gifts from the Panthers, the War Eagles managed to lose. Hell, Benton's run defense was so bad that J.A. Fair converted on third and long quite a bit by simply handing the ball to a back and having him run straight up the middle.
You can use your running game to abuse the opposing team when your opponent's defense is absolutely horrible. Benton's plan to stop most of those runs seemed to involve players hurling themselves at backs and hoping that would be enough to knock them down. Benton missed tackles all night long and looked truly horrible.
And J.A. Fair still managed to lose. It was truly a frustrating evening.
Ah, but there were some great things about the evening. First and foremost, I always have a lot of fun going to Benton's home games with my dad. We both graduated from Benton High School and love to see our hometown team play. Besides, those gamest represent about the only times that my dad and I can simply sit down and visit without any interference.
Also, Cliff Lee was at the game. Cliff Lee, a Benton boy, is a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. He played high school baseball for Benton and he attended a ceremony at the game in which his number was retired.
Plus, those outdoor P.A. speakers at high school stadiums are a constant source of amusement. You had what was supposed to be a roaring panther -- a racket that actually sounded like the noise a bobcat with a sore throat might make -- every time Benton scored. Also, I did appreciate the opening minutes of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" playing through the P.A. system once -- it sounded scratchy and distorted through those speakers, but it's the thought that counts, right?
Obviously, Benton isn't getting anywhere near the playoffs this year, what with a 1-4 conference market and only two games left in the season. Even the most optimistic fan figures the team will reach 2-5 in the conference (3-7 overall).
I'm sure things will be back to normal next week when the Panthers head south to play El Dorado, a solid team with a 4-1 conference record (6-2 overall).
Hey, the Panthers did win tonight and that's good enough for now.
The Arkansas Razorbacks lose again. Read all about it right here.