Panthers host Titans in Rd. 1

Benton senior receiver Clayton Maertens runs after a catch in last week’s 45-12 victory over the Sheridan Yellowjackets in the regular-season finale. Maertens caught three passes for 25 yards as the Panthers will host the Jacksonville Titans in the first round of the 6A State Tournament tonight at 7. BLAKE FOGLEMAN/Special to The Saline Courier
By: 
Tony Lenahan
Staff Writer

For the first time all season, the Benton Panthers came out of a game injury-free in last week’s 45-12 victory over Sheridan in Benton. That win broke a three-game losing streak going into tonight’s 6A State Tournament first-round matchup with the Jacksonville Titans (formerly Red Devils).
“I don’t think we lost anybody for the week,” Benton Coach Brad Harris said. “Zak Wallace was playing on a little bit of a sore ankle and he got out of it without injury. We didn’t lose anybody. I don’t know if I’ve said that all year. It’s the first time we got out of it injury-free.”
The Panthers (6-4, 4-3 West) have had 28 different players miss a game due to injury this season and will actually return one big one in offensive lineman Jared Hastings.
“We’re going to get Jared Hastings (back spasms), the senior offensive lineman, back this week,” Harris said. “He was having some issues but they’ve calmed back down. He’s practiced this week.”
But just because they didn’t lose anyone last week, the Panthers still won’t be 100 percent for the rest of the year as Benton is still without junior quarterback Colin Morrow (ACL), sophomore QB Peyton Hudgins (concussion symptoms), junior receiver Peyton Pallette (elbow injury), sophomore receiver Braxton Slaughter (collarbone) and junior defensive lineman Mikhail Dukes (ACL).
With the injuries, the Panthers turn to third-string quarterback, sophomore Gavin Wells, who shined last week in the win over the Yellowjackets. Wells completed 16 of 24 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another.
As for the Titans (3-7, 2-5 East), Harris said the Panthers will focus on their run game.
“They’ve got a big running back, No. 5 (Shawn Ellis),” Harris said. “He’s a 200-pound kid and runs the football tough. He’s been a three-year player for them. I remember two years ago when we played them, he was a sophomore and played a lot in that game. He gets downhill on you pretty good.
The Panthers and Titans kick off at 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium in the Benton Athletic Complex. The game can be listened to on “The Ride” 106.7 FM and be streamed live on fidelitylocal6.com.

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