BENTON – It wasn’t the crispest of scrimmages, but that’s what scrimmages are for. The Benton Panthers topped the Mills Comets 30-21 in an Arkansas Activities Association benefit game on Tuesday night at Panther Stadium preceding next week’s opening-season game vs. Arkadelphia on Sept. 6.
“One thing I’m pleased with is the effort,” Benton Coach Scott Neathery said. “The effort was there. I liked our tempo on offense a lot better than the Maroon & Gray game. The reason we play these scrimmages is to see where you need to get better when you play another team and just the ballgame dynamic of getting on and off the field, game situations, we definitely saw some spots where we need to get shored up before we play Arkadelphia.”
Tuesday night’s scrimmage began with both teams getting some special teams work in and also both teams beginning at their opponent’s 10-yard line with Benton’s resulting in a 20-yard field goal by junior Grant Hinze, and Mills resulting in a 10-yard touchdown on the first play. Then the scrimmage began.
Benton started with the ball and senior quarterback Tarek Beaugard ran for 5 yards before hitting senior receiver J.V. Davis for 10 yards. Sophomore Drew Dyer would run for 13 yards and Beaugard hit junior receiver Sam Baker for 19 yards to Mills’ 22-yard line. But, two plays later, Beaugard would fumble, which offensive lineman sophomore Preston Madison recovered, resulting in a 19-yard loss. Beaugard would get picked off to end the Panthers’ drive.
Mills would take the initial lead in the scrimmage as Jordan Beasley would run 47 yards to pay dirt for the 7-0 lead with 8:34 left in the first quarter, but it didn’t take long for the Panthers to respond. Sophomore quarterback Cason Maertens took over and needed just three plays to find Beaugard, who lined up at receiver, down the sideline for a 60-yard TD pass and a 7-7 ballgame after Hinze’s extra point with 8:03 left in the first.
“Offensively, we executed well at times, sometimes we didn’t,” Neathery said. “I thought J.V. (Davis) had a good night. I thought Tarek and Cason had some high points and low points. Looking for more consistency on offense, but I thought our tempo was pretty dang good.”
Mills would turn the ball over on downs their next possession, and the Panthers would have to punt on the following possession, but what a punt it was. Junior safety Stone Paul punted it 50 yards down the right sideline and the ball bounced out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Paul would come up big again for Benton as he ended Mills’ next possession picking off Race Rogers.
“Defensively, I thought we played hard, I thought we swarmed to the ball,” Neathery said. “I was pleased we got some turnovers (5). Three big plays killed us. We have a busted play and the other team takes it to the house. We have to find a way to not let them score a touchdown on a busted play. They almost had another (big play), but Dylan Murphy tracked him down from the nose guard position and they wound up not scoring on that series.”
Dyer took a Beaugard screen pass 31 yards to midfield before Beaugard found J.V. Davis for a 50-yard TD pass to make it 14-7 Benton with 57 seconds left in the first quarter. Sophomore defensive back Michael Weser would pick off Rogers’ pass on Mills next offensive possession and the Panthers would take advantage again. A nine-play drive that went 58 yards ended on a 23-yard TD pass to sophomore Grayson Morrow from Maertens for a 20-7 lead, with a bad snap making the extra point no good.
Hinze would hit a 21-yard field goal for a 23-7 lead, which would be the score at halftime. Mills would score first in the second half. After a tackle for a loss by senior Zach Smiley, the Comets’ Omar Avance found Braylon Goodwin for a 70-yard TD pass to get within 23-13. Beaugard would have a 40-yard run on the Panthers’ next possession, which ended in a J.V. Davis 6-yard TD reception from Beaugard to make it 30-13.
Mills would score one last time on another big play. Avance needed just two plays to make it a 30-21 game, after the 2-point conversion was successful, when he ran 92 yards for the score. Beaugard was picked off on the last play of the scrimmage.
“Those long touchdowns just kill you,” Neathery said. “They’re a dagger in the heart. But, for the most part I thought we did well. We executed for the most part. It’s a scrimmage and we had some breakdowns.”
PASSING – Maertens 13-17, 201, 3/1; Beaugard 4-6, 38, 0/2; Murdock 2-4, 12, 0/0.
RUSHING – Beaugard 3-48, Dyer 2-17, Rodriguez 3-11, Black 2-15, Carey 5-10, Whittamore 2-6.
RECEIVING – J.V. Davis 5-74, Whittamore 4-11, Dyer 2-34, Green 2-16, Beaugard 1-60, Morrow 1-23, Baker 1-19, D. Davis 1-12, Powell 1-7, Maertens 1- (-5).