The Arkadelphia Badgers took a 42-28 victory over Benton Tuesday night at War Memorial Stadium.
It was a battle of two halves Tuesday night in Little Rock, and the second half made all the difference for the Badgers as they went from a 22-20 deficit to take a 42-28 victory over the 6A Benton Panthers at War Memorial Stadium.
There were two main things that secured the win for the Badgers — a solid defense and Jakahari Howell.
Howell racked up 157 yards on the ground and three touchdowns, but he was also an aerial threat as he tossed the ball for 122 yards and one TD.
The defense forced five turnovers by the Panther offense, three of which were interceptions.
Benton started the game with the ball after winning the toss, and they gained 10 yards on the return.
That was as far as they would get, however, as on their second and 15 play, Rashad Young grabbed a fumble at the 37, carrying it down for the touchdown to take a 6-0 lead with less than a minute off the clock.
Benton was able to come back on their next drive, taking advantage of the speed of senior Wallace Foote who was able to sneak past the Badgers' defense to make three big plays before junior QB Tarek Beaugard handed it to him at the 39. Foote carried the ball in around the near side with a host of Badger defenders taking chase, but they were not fast enough to outrun the 5-10, 175 receiver as he found his way into the end zone with 9:19 left in the opening period.
The kick by the Panthers was good for a 7-6 lead.
The Badgers' first drive was unfortunate as on their second play, the snap by Jacob Knight sailed over Howell's head and out of the end zone for a safety to put the Panthers up 9-6 with 9:05 left in the opening period.
Howell punted the ball, and it was recovered at the Panthers' 41, and two plays later, Foote again was able to make a big play, carrying the ball from the 47 down to the 4 where Jahlon Mitchell pushed him out of bounds.
Foote took the handoff again, carrying the ball into the end zone for another Panther TD. The kick was good for a 16-6 lead with 7:28 remaining in the first.
Derius Holt recovered the kick, carrying it down to the 33 to give the Badgers good field position, but an interception by the Panthers cut the Badgers' drive short.
The Panthers were able to run five plays before a pass by Beaugard was intercepted by Holt.
The following drive saw a 33 yard gain, but a series of incomplete passes and flags forced the Badgers to punt it away.
The Badgers downed the ball at the 10, and the first and 10 play was broken up by Jalen Barrett, who forced a fumble. Holt recovered, but he was taken down at the 15.
A handoff to Kris Oliver got the ball down to the 5, and Howell did the heavy lifting, carrying the ball through a hearty line of defenders for the TD.
The conversion play was called, and Howell again was able to find his way into the end zone to cut the Panthers' lead to 16-14 with 1:07 left in the opening period.
The Panthers were able to get the ball across midfield on their next drive, but a pass by Beaugard was picked off by Holt again, who carried it to the Badgers' 47.
It took eight plays to get in scoring position, but an eight yard sack put the Badgers on the 19. Howell took the ball again on the run, finding the end zone to put the Badgers back on top, 20-16 with 8:24 left in the half.
The Badger defense again stepped up, holding the Panthers to seven plays before the visiting team was forced to punt it away. Unfortunately, the Badgers came away without another score.
The Badgers' next drive looked to be productive, but a pick by the Panthers resulted in another TD for the visiting team to put them up 22-20 with 34 seconds left in the half.
The Badgers struggled out of the locker room, going three-and-out, and the Panthers again took advantage of the missteps, taking the ball 76 yards for another TD.
The kick was blocked by Holt to set the score at 28-20 with 8:32 left in the third.
The teams then traded unsuccessful drives before an 81 yard TD run by Howell on the first play of the drive.
Howell then carried the ball in for the conversion to knot up the score at 28-all with 5:15 left in the third period.
Two Badger drives later, the team was forced to punt, and the ball was marked dead at the 11.
A pass from Beaugard to Foote was off its mark as Emmanuel Cooper picked it off, carrying it down to the one for the Badgers.
Howell handed the ball off to Oliver, who punched his way into the end zone for the score. A pass to Mitchell was good for the extra two points to give the Badgers a 36-28 lead with 7:56 remaining in the game.
The kickoff proved good for the Badgers as Kenneth Lewis was able to recover it at the Panthers' 25 after a Panther mishandled the catch.
A series of flags pushed the Badgers back to the 40, but five plays again put the ball at the one, and a quick swing pass to Mitchell gave the Badgers another TD with 5:02 left in the game, 42-28.
Neither team was able to score again as the time ran down to the final buzzer, leaving the home team victorious.
After the game, the Most Valuable Player award was presented to Howell for his accomplishments in the game.
"I thought this was a great win for our program," said head coach J.R. Eldridge. "We beat a 6A school that ... was supposed to be a real good team. The big keys to the win was that we continued to fight even when we were down, and we were able to outlast them.
"Their best football player, number 1 [Wallace Foote], had a good first half with about 83 yards, but we shut him down in the second, and he got four. We made a lot of mistakes, but despite the mistakes, we kept fighting."
The Badgers will be back in action next Friday night, Sept. 7, as they play host to the Sheridan Yellowjackets at Badger Stadium at 7 p.m.
The Panthers will be hosting the Jacksonville Red Devils at 7 p.m.