If there could be one word to describe the 18th annual Benton Athletic Memorial Museum Wall of Fame Banquet on Saturday night, it might be "memories."
Athletic Director Steve Quinn, who served as master of ceremonies for the event, pointed out that memories are a key reason for the game itself.
"You play football for the memories," he said, while noting that the 1977 members of the Benton High School championship football team and their family members gathered 35 years later for the the event were reliving that special time in their lives.
"It's like it was yesterday," Quinn said. "That's what's so special about events like this."
The entire team was inducted into the Wall of Fame. Accepting the plaque noting the honor were two of the team's four captains, Jerry Wilson and Rick Spivey.
The plaque was presented to Wilson and Spivey by Donnie Burks, executive director of the museum, and then immediately returned to Burks to hang in a prominent place in the museum located on the Benton High School campus.
Both Wilson and Spivey expressed appreciation to the BAMM Board of Directors.
As he noted his thanks for the tribute, Wilson said, "We were a team ... we had each other's back.
"But everybody in this room helped make our championship possible," he said. "It started when we were back in future Panthers at C.W. Lewis Stadium.
"It's a blessing to be here," Wilson added.
Spivey also noted the school and community support the team received. "Everybody became a part of it and it became a special part of us.
"Just keep the memories going," he added.
The late Max Graham served as head coach for the 1977 team that became known as The Maroon Machine/Campaign of Contrast.
Speaking for the Graham family at the event was Graham's son, Doug, who shared thoughts of his father and of the family's time in Benton. Also in attendance was the Grahams' daughter, LaDonna.
Doug Graham noted that when his father first arrived in Benton in 1972, he promised school leaders that he would produce a championship team.
"Benton held a special place in his heart," Doug Graham said. "Being here was a special time for all of us."
Dwight Fite, who served as head coach/athletic director for Benton High School from 1984 to 1999, spoke in behalf of the coaching staff under Graham.
At the time Graham was head coach, Fite was one of four assistant coaches. Others were Roger Burton, John Herron and Lewis Pryor.
Fite referred to the close relationship that existed among the football team, cheerleaders, Pep Steppers, band and others during that period.
"It was a special time," he said. "Those were the Pink Panther years."
Commenting on the team's championship status, he attributed it to one primary factor: Attitude.
"That's why you could climb the mountain and become champions," he said.
"You're still champions," he said, "because you've carried that attitude over into your lives."
He pointed out the "lifetime friendships that developed between the coaches and the players."
Referring to the championship title, he noted that "championships bring a school together. The championship belongs to everybody."
Toward the close of the banquet, all of the players formed a line against a wall of the cafeteria. Then each player's name was announced along with his weight at the time he played on the 1977 team. After that, each team member went to the stage to join the two captains as they displayed the BAMM Wall of Fame plaque.
Also remembered at the event were the five 1977 team members who have died: Scott Cox, Brian Hampton, Keith Harrison, Jeff Kerr and Mike Wallis. Their photographs, along with one of Graham, were on display near the podium.
Also speaking at the event was Jay Kutchka – referred to by Quinn as a "self-appointed historian— who compiled a Facebook review of every game included in the 1977 season
Kutchka shared special accounts of each game when he spoke to the crowd.
A special guest introduced at the banque was Marshall Townsend, who directed the Benton High School "Show Band of Arkansas" during the 1970s. Townsend, whnow lives in Las Vegas, directed the band during the years that the band adapted the "Pink Panther" theme as a fight song.