Benton: Panthers prowling for another playoff berth

Benton reached the playoffs for the first time since 2006 last season, but was forced to forfeit its three wins for using an ineligible player.

Second-year coach Scott Neathery and the Panthers (0-11) look to be more competitive in a tough 6A-South and seek another playoffs appearance in 2011.

Senior Dylan Harris (6-1, 160) returns at quarterback this season. Harris passed for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns in 2010. Brooks Balisterri (5-10, 160) should be Harris’ go-to receiver after receiving all-conference honors in 2010. The senior caught 40 passes for 532 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

All-league back Wallace Foote (5-9, 170) returns as Benton’s leading rusher; last fall he posted more than 600 yards on the ground and five touchdowns. The junior added 394 yards and four scores through the air as well. Senior Tamaio Beaugard (5-10, 175) should provide a powerful secondary option to the running game.

While Benton’s defense is small, the Panthers promote new players from last year’s 6-4 junior high team, including sophomore cornerback Ryan Rodriguez (5-7, 155), who won Benton’s “Top Panther” award in the off-season. Senior tackle Darren Warford (5-11, 215) returns after earning all-conference honors in 2010.