Benton folds in first round of Class 6A playoffs
It’s official — the Benton Panthers are out in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs after visiting Van Buren tonight and losing 41-14.
Still, it’s worth mentioning that the 3-7 Panthers just made it into the playoffs this year. Also, this is the first playoffs appearance by Benton in the past three years.
Furthermore, new head coach Scott Nethery pledged at the first of the season to turn the program around this year. Considering the Panthers finished 1-9 last year and 2-8 the season before that, perhaps Nethery has achieved the goal he set out for his team.
“We’re used to winning,” Nethery said in an interview last week with First Arkansas News when asked about his team’s former status as a football power in the state. “We’ve got some tradition.”
Nethery, during that interview, said his team had a tough row to hoe. The Panthers have gone through three coaches in the past three seasons, meaning the current group of senior players have had to adjust to new leadership styles as well as offensive and defensive schemes. He said those changes have contributed to the attrition that has whittled down that senior class from the 60 players the high school started to look at seriously when they were in the eighth grade to the 14 players due to graduate in the spring.
Still, Nethery said he is impressed with the leadership demonstrated by those seniors throughout the season.
“I can’t say enough about them,” he said. “”They bought into our program.”
With the senior on board, Nethery said getting other players to “buy into” the system the coach put in place was easy. Nethery said the Panthers’ record this year leaves a lot to be desired, but stressed that he wanted consistent improvement this year and his team provided it.
“Our record doesn’t look great, but we’ve won the games we needed to win,” he said. “Let’s improve and good things will happen.”
Nethery certainly has optimism on his side. It’s a safe bet that he’s looking for further improvement — and another playoff appearance — next year.
While the Panthers have been through a lot of changes over the past three seasons, at least one thing has remained consistent — breakfasts at Parkview United Methodist Church on gameday.
Parkview started hosting team breakfasts last year and will continue to do so next year. Emily Warford, mother of junior defensive lineman Darren Warford, said the church’s support of the team is appreciated by both parents and players.
“I just praise this church a lot,” she said. “These guys — when they leave here — they know this church loves them.”
By the way, should you want to follow the progress of Saline County teams in the playoffs this season, check the Saline Courier’s Twitter feed for live updates throughout the postseason.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.