By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
NATCHITOCHES – All Greg Manning did was run for four touchdowns, and in the fireworks display that is the Benton Tigers offense, the junior’s 24 points seemed like an afterthought.
The state’s No. 2 scoring attack went 80 yards on the first snap, the first six of 27 points in the first period, supplemented by 28 more before halftime Friday night. The Tigers, coming off a 63-point eruption against previously unbeaten Byrd last Friday, nuked District 1-5A foe Natchitoches Central 62-15 on the Chiefs’ homecoming at NSU’s Turpin Stadium.
Manning maneuvered for scores of 1, 2, 1 and 16, the last one the coup de gras delivered with 7:12 showing on a third-quarter clock that immediately shifted to running time. He got tough yards inside the tackles and occasionally on the edge, as he did on that final TD, reading a nice downfield block to finish his night with 71 yards on 19 calls.
That downfield block was the last contribution by Benton’s receiver corps – which had three stars with 100-yard nights, snagging on-target deliveries from senior quarterback Gray Walters.
After posting eight touchdown strikes and 512 yards against the Yellow Jackets a week ago, Walters threw for five more TDs and 382 yards, going 20 for 25 against an overwhelmed NCHS squad.
“It felt good coming out tonight, again, like it did last week,” he said.
“We did good again. We were in the red zone once, and we didn’t score, and I thought we should have got in, but overall we played pretty good.”
Pretty good? That’s putting it mildly. The Tigers’ offensive line kept Walters virtually untouched as Pearce Russell hauled in nine passes for 145 yards and three TDs in what is becoming a fairly normal night for him. Then Brady Blaylock recorded 116 yards on five grabs with a score, and Andy Lim also snagged five for 114 yards and a TD.
The tone was set on the first snap. Blaylock took a shuttle pass around left end and exploded downfield, and 12 seconds into play, Benton’s band struck up the Tigers’ fight song.
“We looked at film, and we knew there should be a bunch of space. Brady Blaylock has wheels,” said Walters. “The dude can run. We knew to give it to him in space, and the dude can go make a play.”
Credit the Chiefs for bouncing back, at the end of a week when they mourned teammate Robert Walker, killed in an ATV accident Sunday. Tailback Jeremiah Miles broke loose on the next play, racing 72 yards and after the conversion kick, handing NCHS a brief 7-6 edge.
But Russell got the first of his TDs (24, 16 and 35 yards) six snaps later. The Tigers faltered in the red zone on their next possession, but then scored six straight times, notably when Walters found Russell for 35 yards on fourth-and-six 2:42 before halftime.
“Throwing up to Pearce, fourth down? One-on-one? You don’t do that. You never go one-on-one against Pearce Russell,” said Walters.
After alternating in practice two Mondays ago with his backup, Walters has 13 TD passes in the last two games and Benton (3-3, 2-1, No. 3 in the Shreveport-Bossier Journal Top 10) has scored 125 points.
“Confidence is to the roof right now. I feel good. I feel like the offense can’t be stopped,” he said. “I think we can win out.”
Coach Reynolds Moore was pleased the Tigers didn’t have a letdown and hopes the way they approached NCHS (2-4, 1-2) bodes well for their closing stretch against Southwood, Haughton, Captain Shreve and Parkway in 1-5A competition.
“I challenged them all week to follow up last week’s performance with a better performance. I explained to them that didn’t mean scoring 70 or 80, or getting a shutout, it just meant genuinely executing better,” said Moore. “We finally didn’t give up a touchdown while on offense, and we didn’t give up a touchdown on special teams, and those were goals coming in. I was pleased with that and that we got a lot of young guys in there late in the game.”
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org
Benton 62, Natchitoches Central 15
Score by quarters
Benton | 27 | 28 | 7 | 0 | 62
NCHS | 7 | 8 | 0 | 0 | – 15
B – Brady Blaylock 80 pass from Gray Walters (kick blocked)
NC – Jeremiah Miles 72 run (Ricardo Gavin kick)
B – Pearce Russell 24 pass from Walters (Peyton May kick)
B – Greg Manning 1 run (May kick)
B – Manning 2 run (May kick)
B – Manning 1 run (May kick)
B – Russell 16 pass from Walters (May kick)
B – Russell 35 pass from Walters (May kick)
NC – Miles 63 run (Miles run)
B – Andy Lim 43 pass from Walters (May kick)
B – Manning 16 run (May kick)
Benton – Manning 19-71 4 TDs, Walters 2-9.
NCHS – Miles 19-185 2 TDs, Zion Thompson 2-6.
Benton – Walters 20-25-0 382 yards 5 TDs.
NCHS – Brian Young 1-9-0, minus-3.
Benton – Russell 9-145 3 TDs, Blaylock 5-116 1 TD, Lim 5-114 1TD, Jeffrey King 1-7.
NCHS – Titus Williams 1-minus-3.