The Benton Panthers kicked their season off Friday with their annual Maroon and Gray game at C.W. Lewis Stadium. With packed house on one side of the field and a partially packed side on the other, one would think it was a regular season football game. Too bad it was not. It was just a scrimmage.
The Panthers first team offense waisted no time scoring their first touchdown of the night. Using only one play, senior quarterback Dylan Harris hit senior wide receiver Desmond Maulding for a 70-yard strike. Though the second team defense was on the other side of the ball, the throw and catch was impressive by themselves.
The Panther’s coaching staff used a format for the game that allowed the first team offense to run 15 consecutive plays against the second defense. Then the second team offense ran 15 against the starting defense.
That session of plays did not fair well for the second offense. Benton’s starting defense shut the offense down for 20 straight plays without allowing one score. They also forced five consecutive three-and-outs ending with lost yardage.
The second offense, however, did break free for a 59 yard three play drive that ended with a touchdown. Head coach Scott Neathery sent his starters back on to the field for one last set of downs before calling it a night.
With the start of the season only two weeks away, Neathery and the team still have things to work on come out of the scrimmage. “To be honest, I thought we looked kind of sloppy tonight,” said Neathery. “I think when it is all said an done, our offense is solid and we feel good about our defense, too.”
Over-all, Neathery thought the scrimmage went pretty well. “We executed well for a few plays but there is always room for improvement,” said Neathery.
Defensively, the Panthers made Neathery feel pretty good heading into the final two weeks of pre-season. “I was really pleased,” said Neathery. “I though they were running around well and gang tackling.”
Just like every football team in the nation, no one is perfect. Benton still has some things to work on before heading into Sept. 2. “We still need to polish up and we have got to keep people healthy,” said Neathery. “I feel very confident with our top 22 guys but after that we have a lot of really young guys.”
The Panthers start their season with the annual Salt Bowl against Bryant on Sept. 2 at War Memorial Stadium.