Big night for the Panthers
Just two weeks ago,the mighty Benton Panthers were getting beaten to pulp in their own stadium by the Texarkana Razorbacks and their head coach, Hatty McBackward (a nickname my dad and I gave him because he wears his cap backward and screams — red-faced — at his team for the entire game).
After that Texarkana game, the Panthers were 0-5. Things have improved considerably since then. They went to Sheridan and chalked up a victory against that team last week and, just Friday, they hosted McClellan at C.W. Lewis stadium and pulled off at 49-8 victory.
Yes, it’s all very true that McClellan hasn’t won a game all year and are struggling this season. It’s also true that the Panthers scored on four safeties against McClellan. Those McClellan safeties, by the way, revealed that the team has some problems — two of the safeties were the result of the center tossing the ball over the punter’s head and one came after the Panthers blocked a punt.
However, Benton got a great psychological boost from the McClellan game. The Panthers haven’t scored 49 points in a game all season and, indeed, for a very long time. Also, Benton got to “mercy rule” an opponent and they’ve not done that for awhile, either. The mercy rule kicks in when a team is ahead by at least 35 points. When the mercy rule is in play, the game clock is left running and is only stopped for injuries or official time outs.
Running up enough points to activate the mercy rule builds a lot of confidence. The winning team can honestly say “we’ve won and there’s not a lot you can do about it” to the opponent. During the McClellan game, the mercy rule was in play with less than three minutes left in the third quarter. How’s that for a confidence booster?
While a 2-5 record isn’t much to crow about, the great thing about the Panthers’ performance over the past two weeks is this — they’ll likely get into the playoffs if they pull off a victory against either El Dorado (Benton will probably lose that one) or J.A. Fair (a game that the Panthers should win). Furthermore, the past two victories have been great psychological boosters — Benton snapped an eight-game losing streak with the Sheridan victory and the the McClellan game was the first Panthers home victory in two years.
While Benton has been shaky this year, perhaps the team is starting to win some games at a time when they need them most. Should the Panthers make it to the playoffs, the players will hopefully have the confidence they need to at least make an impressive postseason run in Class 6A.
Once can hope that’s what the team is setting itself up for at least.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.