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Benton Panthers make the playoffs

By: 5 November 2010 One Comment

It’s been a rough year for the Benton Panthers, but the team clinched an appearance in the Arkansas Class 6A playoffs last night with a 61-13 drubbing of Little Rock’s J.A. Fair.

That victory gave the Panthers a 3-7 record on the season and only its second home win at C.W. Lewis Stadium in Benton this season. Truth be told, that was the second home win for the Panthers in the past two years.

What? How does a team make the playoffs with a 3-7 record. Well, there are two, eight-team divisions in Class 6A and the top six teams from each division get into the playoffs.

As a Benton High School alum, I’m proud to see the team get to the playoffs regardless of its record. Benton hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2005 and survived the first round of those back then with a victory over the Bryant Hornets. The Panthers got knocked out in the second round with a loss to the Springdale Bulldogs, who went on to win the state championship that year.

At any rate, Benton put on a great show against J.A. Fair last night. The mercy rule was enacted near the end of the second quarter, meaning the game was pretty much over before the half. The mercy rule comes into play when a team is up by 35 points — at that point, the game clock is only stopped for official timeouts (injuries and etc.)

Actually, the implementation of the mercy rule was rather erratic last night in that the timekeeper seemed to stop the clock at random here and there and the Panthers had enough time to run up some more points. Yesterday, I heard the mercy rule described as both the “sportsmanship time rule” and the “run rule.” Who knows which — if any — is the correct terminology?

It’s worth mentioning that the Panthers did improve steadily this year. However, it’s fair to point out that J.A. Fair has had a rotten year — the team had one win this year and that came over Little Rock McClellan which had an absolutely dismal season. Benton, which is ranked 13th in the 16-team 6A going into Thursday’s game, had victories over 14th ranked Sheridan, 15th ranked Fair and 16th ranked McClellan.

Benton Head Coach Scott Neathery said Benton’s record isn’t much to brag about, but he did mention the team won the games it needed to win and thanked the seniors for their leadership over the season. Those 14 senior players have had a hard row to hoe over the past three years. Neathery is the third coach they’ve had in three years and the players deserve some kind of tenacity award — there were 60 likely Panthers in the ninth grade when that class started looking forward to high school ball and only 14 of them stuck it out with the program.

Neathery plans to stick around for awhile in Benton and has been keeping tabs on junior high players in the 8th and 9th grades, as well as developing football players in the sixth and seventh grades who play in the youth Future Panthers team. That ninth grade group put together a 6-4 record this year and Neathery said there are some impressive players in that group. How impressive? He said some of them will most likely see some playing time as sophomores with the Panthers.

As for the game against J.A. Fair, Neathery said the team didn’t break out anything new — the players concentrated on perfecting the game plan they’ve worked on all season. He did go out of his way to thank his players for “buying in” to his new offensive and defensive schemes — it takes a lot of time and effort to learn how to play under a new coach. Hopefully, the Panthers that take the field next year — and in the foreseeable future — won’t have to go through that process as Neathery will stick around for awhile.

Neathery, by the way, gets a few bonus points for acknowledging Benton’s history and wanting to build on it.

“We’re used to winning,” he said. “We’ve got some tradition.”

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.

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