BENTON: Panthers young in 6A West

Conference: 6A West
Coach: Brad Harris
’16 Record: 8-5

The Benton Panthers made it back to the 6A semi-finals in 2016 for the third year in a row. Benton went on the road in the quarterfinals and took out Jonesboro in a barn burner of a game, 56-52.

“I believe the Jonesboro game was the biggest moment and one of the most exciting games of the year,” Coach Brad Harris said. “Jonesboro was a No. 1 seed from the East, our guys never gave up and just continued play hard the entire game. We ending up scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 1:28 left in the game.”

After a string of great success for the program, things get tougher for Benton in 2017 after graduating several starters.

Junior Colen Morrow and sophomore Peyton Hudgins share time at quarterback. Senior Zak Wallace is back at running back after putting up more than 500 rushing yards last fall. Clayton Maertens, Braden Hendrix, Michael Allison and Braxton Slaughter spread out the field at receiver. Jenson White (tackle), Jarod Hastings (guard), Josh George (center), Beau Belcher (guard) and James Durling (tackle) start on the offensive line.

Senior Blake Edwards and junior Ty Neathery starts at the ends, while junior Robert Langford starts at tackle. Brock Morris, Kyvin Carroll and Bryson Krebs make plays at linebacker. Cameron Ross, Beau Brewer, Blake Smith, Tristan Hutchinson and DJ Sturgis rotate in the secondary.

“We hope to have a chance to compete for one of the top three spots in the conference,” Harris said. “We will be very young and inexperienced to start the season, but we like our talent level. We hope one of our strengths this year is going to be our offensive line. We also like our quality depth at our offensive skill positions. Weakness this year will be youth and inexperience.

“Greenwood will be the team to beat, and I think El Dorado will be a much improved team this year that could push for the conference championship.”