Whit Warford asks his 3 questions before the Benton Panthers second round in the playoffs, and answers them afterward. After a bye last week, the Panthers will play at home at the Palace against the Lake Hamilton Wolves at 7PM on November 18th. See the Postgame Answers next week (below in maroon).
1. Will Benton’s strength be able to outweigh Lake Hamilton’s strength?
In last week’s game Lake Hamilton blew out the Searcy Lions with the score being 55 – 21. The main reason they blew out the Lions was because of their strong run game. As a team, the Wolves rushed for 327 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Their leading rusher was Sophomore Hayden Barton who rushed for 183 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 11 carries. Benton will have a major task on their hands to stop the run. However, the Panther defense only allowed 95 rushing yards in their last game against Sheridan.
The credit for this performance goes mainly to the linebackers Senior Jake Jones, Sophomore Walter Hicks, and Junior Chase Harding. On the season they all have made over 90 tackles. The Panther defense will have to be on their A-game in order to take away the Wolves’ run game.
However, if the Panthers manage to slow down the run game it will increase Benton’s chance to win. So the real question is whose offensive strength will prevail?
Meanwhile, Benton’s strength is also in its run game. Benton’s run game has been unstoppable at times this year with Junior 4-star running back Braylen Russell and Junior Chris Barnard in the backfield.
Braylen Russell has 1,307 yards on the year with 21 touchdowns to his name and Chris Barnard has 362 yards and 6 touchdowns. It’s safe to say that the Lake Hamilton defense will have a lot on their hands this week.
2. How will JR Quarterback Cline Hooten handle the playoff spotlight?
The Panthers will be entering the playoffs this week with an inexperienced playoff quarterback. This will either affect the Panthers greatly or not much at all.
So far this season Junior Quarterback Cline Hooten has handled the spotlight well. He is undefeated as a starter and makes minimal mistakes. He threw 1 touchdown and rushed for another. He also went 18-24 with 191 passing yards.
Hooten has thrown for 870 yards and 10 touchdowns in 5 games this season. Meanwhile, Hooten will be able to rely on the very efficient and consistent run game.
Benton’s run game has been unstoppable at times this year with Junior 4-star running back Braylen Russell and Junior Chris Barnard in the backfield. Braylen Russell has 1,307 yards on the year with 21 touchdowns to his name and Chris Barnard has 362 yards and 6 touchdowns.
It’s safe to say that the Lake Hamilton defense will have a lot on their hands this week. Cline will have to watch out for Senior MLB Izic Clenney and know where he is on every play. He has 117 tackles on the year and averages 10.6 tackles per game. He can absolutely wreck a game plan.
So when the lights shine the brightest will we see the best from Hooten?
3. How will Benton’s home-field advantage affect overall gameplay?
Benton’s home field could prove critical for them. The Panthers are undefeated at home so far this season and have won every game at home by double digits. The Panthers will certainly look to continue that trend.
The Panther offense has also played extraordinarily at home averaging 58 points per home game. Lake Hamilton will have to play defense at an elite level to slow down Benton’s high-powered offense. The crowd noise is also a factor Lake Hamilton will have to consider.
How much will the noise affect how they run their offense and defense? The student section is known to go all out and make a lot of noise during home games. Will the Panthers home field advantage be a factor?
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This is Benton Panthers sports coverage, with writing and photography by Benton High School students. Visit their home page at www.mysaline.com/benton-panthers-sports. Writers are Devon Hunt, Jack Woolbright, Whit Warford & Bentley Stamper.