SCOTT ANDERSON, Journal Sports
The Benton Tigers trailed for three quarters against Parkway, but a 3-yard touchdown run by Greg Manning started a fourth-quarter rally that propelled the Tigers to a 28-24 victory against the Panthers Friday night at Bobby Marlow Field at Preston Crownover Stadium.
Manning’s touchdown closed the gap to 24-21 with 10:35 left in the game.
On Parkway’s next drive, Benton defensive lineman Brandon Sanders recovered a fumble in the Parkway backfield, giving the Tigers the ball back at their own 37 with 8:38 left in the game.
Benton quarterback Gray Walters hit receiver Andy Lim for a touchdown from 38 yards out with seven minutes remaining, giving Benton its only lead of the game.
The Tigers defense stymied Parkway’s next drive, forcing the Panthers to punt. Parkway punter Aeron Burrell pinned Benton on its own 19-yard line, but Manning and the Tigers were able to run out the clock from there.
Manning finished the game with 20 carries for 92 yards and the touchdown as Benton spent much of the night trying to establish a run game, in part because of high winds and rain.
But in the second half, Benton head coach Reynolds Moore told offensive coordinator Terrence Smith to get standout receiver Pearce Russell more involved in the game.
“I told Coach, ‘Let’s get 13 (Russell) involved. Let’s get him in the game.’ When you get him in the game and get him going, it’s pretty special.”
Russell said the offense was sluggish until the end of the first half.
“We played really bad in that first half,” he said. “We got it clicking there toward the end of the half. We were trying a bunch of stuff, seeing what would work. Second half we came out and scored a little better.”
The Parkway defense held the Tigers’ high-powered offense to 141 total yards in the first half. But Benton’s offense picked up about the same time the wind did, and Benton fell one yard short of taking the lead at halftime at the end of the first half.
The Tigers had the ball on fourth-and-10 at Parkway’s 16. Walters scrambled and found receiver Jeffery King in the end zone for a touchdown to close the gap to 10-7 with 0:22.4 left until halftime.
Peyton May booted the ensuing kickoff from Parkway’s 45 after a personal foul was called on the Panthers. The ball got hung up in the wind, and Benton’s Ron Levi recovered the ball on Parkway’s 20 as an unintentional onside kick. Weird. And nearly very costly.
Three plays later, on third-and-8 from the 18 with 1.7 seconds left, Walters scrambled again, but was stopped at the 1.
“The weather was terrible tonight,” Russell said. “We like to throw the ball, and it was really windy. So we had to adjust. We took what they gave us.”
Parkway head coach Coy Brotherton felt like his Panthers played well enough to win the game.
“Offensively and defensively, I thought we played good all night,” he said. “At the end of the game, I told our kids we had three losses on the year to teams that combined for 22 wins. That’s nothing to get down about.”
After the game, Moore reminded his players how far they had come this season.
“I told them six weeks ago we had lost three in a row,” he said. “I think a lot of people counted us out. Our kids never quit. They didn’t quit tonight. They didn’t quit last week. They haven’t quit when they were behind.”
Benton finished the regular season 7-3 and 5-1 in District 1-5A. Parkway finished 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the district.
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Benton 28, Parkway 24
Score by quarters
Benton | 0 | 7 | 7 | 14 | — 28
Parkway | 7 | 3 | 7 | 7 | — 24
P — Jaylen White 63 run (Aeron Burrell kick)
P — Aeron Burrell 37 FG
B — Jeffery King 16 pass from Gray Walters (Peyton May kick)
P — White 73 pass from Ashton Martin (Burrell kick)
B — Pearce Russell 17 pass from Walters (May kick)
P — Martin 6 run (Burrell kick)
B — Greg Manning 3 run (May kick)
B — Andy Lim 38 pass from Walters (May kick)
Benton — Greg Manning 32-116, Landon Duggan 4-17, Walters 2-24, Ethan Johnson 1-4.
Parkway — Jaylan White 17-188, Antonio Gladney 14-45, Martin 9-37.
Benton — Gray Walters 14-25-1, 223 yards, 3 TDs.
Parkway — Ashton Martin 7-13-1, 115 yards.
Benton – Russell 6-102, Lim 6-89; Manning 1-16, King 1-16.
Parkway — White 2-86, Trenton Lape 4-27.