NEW ORLEANS – It was never going to be a defensive battle, but nobody saw this coming.
Newman needed what seems to be the greatest game the nation’s No. 1 prep recruit has played, and got it, as the Greenies climbed out of an 18-point halftime hole and traded blows with Benton for 48 minutes before walking away with an exhausting, exhilarating 54-52 football victory Friday night.
In a game that will draw national attention today because of the incredible effort from Newman star Arch Manning, and deservedly so, Benton’s Tigers showed firepower and didn’t falter in the face of the Greenies’ impressive second-half comeback.
There were 1,098 yards combined between the teams, the Class 5A visitors nearly seven hours from home, and the No. 3 squad in Class 2A that boasts more than one highly-regarded college prospect.
If Manning didn’t command the spotlight with his reputation, he filled it with his performance: 390 passing yards on 23 of 38 aim with no interceptions, and five touchdowns; a spectacular 35-yard rushing TD in a 33-point third-quarter rally; and even a 20-yard pass reception to set up another score.
Benton QB Gray Walters had his own shining effort, throwing for 353 yards and no interceptions in 29 attempts. Pearce Russell led the Tigers with 182 yards on six receptions. Landon Duggan posted 133 rushing yards in just 11 tries and Greg Manning added 100, grinding away on 25 carries.
It was a bitter outcome for Benton, which had 615 total yards (353 passing) and 23 first downs to 21 for Newman (483 total yards).
Benton (1-2) roared ahead 32-14 at halftime but kept pounding away after Neman (3-0) turned things around with its third-quarter explosion that included a head-spinning seven-play sequence with two Newman TDs, a Benton score, a Newman onside kick recovery and a fumble recovery by the Greenies.
Benton drew within 47-45 with 9:27 left to play, then 54-52 just two minutes later. Newman’s defense denied the Tigers on fourth down with 1:46 remaining to hold on.
“We blew a lead and they kept fighting. It was a good game to watch, but not to be on this side of it,” said Benton coach Reynolds Moore. “Fundamentally, we’re not good. We’re not tackling well, we’re not covering well. Until we learn to stop the things that we keep giving up continually, we’re going to be in the same boat.”
As for the most prominent player in the game, Moore said:
“I’ve been a huge Manning fan my whole life. I’ve read the articles all summer. I’ve worked the Manning camp with them. All the articles that (said) it’s his last name and he’s overrated (aren’t true). That kid’s the real deal. He flicks it 50, 60 yards off one leg. It’s hard to defend when he can scramble around and make plays.”
Manning and Newman come to north Louisiana next Friday for a showdown with Many, and later visit Union Parish, as Greenies’ coach Nelson Stewart tries to expose his squad to a more physical brand of football to make them more playoff-worthy.
Newman 54, Benton 52
Score by quarters
Benton | 19 | 13 | 7 | 13 | – 52
Newman | 14 | 0 | 33 | 7 | – 54
New – Will Randle 10 pass from Arch Manning (John Neiset kick)
BHS – Landon Duggan 71 run (kick failed)
BHS – Gray Walters 2 run (Peyton May kick)
New – Guillory 98 kickoff return (Neiset kick)
BHS – Greg Manning 22 pass from Walters (May kick)
BHS – G. Manning 1 run (run failed)
BHS – Andy Lim 30 pass from Walters (May kick)
New – A. Manning 35 run (run failed)
BHS – G. Manning 13 run (May kick)
New – Will Randle 2 run (Neiset kick)
New – Peter Loop 46 pass from A. Manning (Neiset kick)
New – P. Loop 29 pass from A. Manning (run failed)
New – Will Zurik 31 run (Neiset kick)
BHS – Duggan 3 run (pass failed)
New – Will Loerzel 26 pass from A. Manning (Neiset kick)
BHS – G. Manning 6 run (May kick)
Rushing: Benton, Landon Duggan 11-133, G. Manning 25-100. Newman, Will Zurik 15-86.
Passing: Benton, Walters 14-29-0-353. Newman, Arch Manning 23-38-0-390.
Receiving: Benton, Pearce Russell 6-182, G. Manning 3-64, Lim 2-46, Jeff King 2-13, Brady Blaylock 1-48. Newman, Kai Donaldson 5-136, Randle 7-67.