The Fair Park Indians came oh so very close to throwing a big wrench into the District 1-4A race on Thursday night before order was restored by a fast closing Benton Tigers squad.
Doubtless clubs in Minden and Stonewall were holding their breaths as the game’s third quarter at BTW rolled to a close with the Indians in front by two points. But, alas, the upset was not to be, as the Tigers scored three fourth quarter touchdowns to win 42-22.
“It was an ugly win against a scrappy team, but we’ll take it,” Benton coach Reynolds Moore said. “We didn’t play well offensively tonight, but a lot of that was due to them. We were out of rhythm until late in the third quarter.”
The Benton (6-1, 4-0) faithful can thank their lucky stars for a defense that came up with five turnovers, resulting in 28 points. Zeke Barnett and Dalton Rangel turned in a pick-6 apiece, while Dorsavion Williams added a third, first-half interception. Taylor Rivet and Jake Norris offered key fumble recoveries that stymied Fair Park drives.
Still, the Indians (4-3, 2-2), had a chance.
“You have to play perfect ball to beat a team like that and we were far from it,” Indians coach Mike Greene said. “We gave them too many chances and they’re just too good. I didn’t wanta pass — I never wanta pass — but you have to sometimes.”
On the third play of the fourth quarter, Benton QB Garrett Hable capped a 15-play, 77-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge to put his team back in front for good at 28-22. That march seemed to take a lot of starch out of a Fair Park defense that had shut down Benton’s offense for much of the contest.
There was mass confusion on the ensuing kickoff, when officials initially signaled the Tigers recovering the onside kick, before switching and giving the ball to the Indians, adding a 15-yard unsportsmanlike call. That set the Indians up at the Benton 37 with a short field to regain the lead.
But on the second play, Robert Rochell, who scored two of the Indians’ touchdowns, fumbled and Norris recovered. Four plays later, Benton’s Doyle Adams Jr. put the game away with an 11-yard score.
“We were executing at the first of the game, but we started to pick it up and get in rhythm,” said Adams. “We closed it out. I had faith in my teammates.”
Among the six different Tigers scoring on the night were Chauncey Taylor on a 1-yard run and Jermaine Newton on a 2-yarer. Also scoring for Fair Park was Jerrick Smith on a 3-yard run, while Rochell and Robinson had conversion runs.
“They ran the same play it seemed like 100 times and we kept making adjustments to try and stop it,” Moore said. “We were finally able to get some stops. They really took it to us.”
After both defenses played shutdown defense in the first quarter, the second frame was disastrous for the Indians. On second down from his 3, Fair Park’s Louis Smith fired a pass into the right flat and Barnett picked it off, then went untouched 14 yards for the score.
Three plays into the Indians’ next series Smith threw a floater that fell into the arms of Rangel, who sped 20 yards for a 13-0 Tiger lead. Just three more offensive plays later, Williams took his turn with a pick at midfield, but he wasn’t able to score.
Hable directed the short drive with a 19-yard run to set up his 1-yard scoring dive.
The Indians finally got some offensive movement on their next series when they stayed on the ground largely behind Jerrick Smith. The senior had runs of 23, 26 and 17 yards to set up his 3-yard scoring scamper. That made it 20-8 Benton at the break with the Tigers appearing to be in control.