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Arkansas high school football Week 3 notebook

Benton survives shootout, Wynne victory means a lot

BENTON — On a night when Benton (2-1, 2-0 6A-East) and Little Rock Catholic (2-1, 1-1) combined for 91 points, 46 first downs, 1,027 yards in total offense and 5 punts, It was a defensive play that allowed Benton to defeat Little Rock Catholic 49-42 at Everett Field. 

Chris Barnard intercepted Jackson England at the Benton 36 with 2:18 left and Benton’s Braylen Russell, who rushed for 140 yards and 30 carries with 3 touchdowns, carried the ball 4 times for 30 yards to run out the clock.

“I had a bum ankle the whole night, but we got it done,” said Russell. “We have some receivers who can play. All week coach talked about lock the door like a MMA fight. We had a few possessions where we didn’t score, but we came out on top.”

Benton head coach Brad Harris said Russell, who missed the second half of the season opener against Bryant and last week’s victory over Sylvan Hills, with a high-ankle sprain, was not 100 percent Friday night, but got the tough yardage as the night went on.

Catholic head coach John Fogleman said, Russell wore down the Rockets’ defense: “He got a little stronger and that takes a toll on guys half his size as the game went along.”

While Benton could hand the ball to Russell to wear out Catholic, the Rockets’ running game was limited when Dominic Keaton left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Catholic finished with 58 yards rushing on 23 carries.

Fogleman said he hopes Keaton’s injury is a sprain and will return to the lineup before too long.

While Russell, the Arkansas Razorback commitment, provided the power, sophomore quarterback Drew Davis provided the spark by completing 21-of-33 passes for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns, all to Maddox Davis, who caught 12 passes for 149 yards. Elias Payne caught 7 for 171.

“Drew is a cool cat,” said Harris. “You can see then when you watch him play. He makes plays. We haven’t had a quarterback like that who can run the ball. He knows how to buy some time to get rid of the ball.

Maddox is a baller. He’s 5-10, 150 pounds soaking wet. I’m glad he’s on my team and I don’t have to defend him.”

Fogleman said there was no secret as to what made Benton’s offense tough to stop.

 “They’ve got weapons,” he said. “Payne is back and he’s good. Davis is good. They do a good job of getting it to their players. They’re going to give a lot of people trouble.”

While Benton came out on top, Catholic was just as impressive on offense. Quarterback Jackson England completed 22-of-35 passes for 435 yards and 5 touchdowns. Brooks Ward caught 12 passes for 245 yards and 3 touchdowns. Braxton Burks caught 4 passes for 152 yards.

“Jackson had a good game,” said Fogleman.”I wish we had that last series back. He played a really good game with only two varsity starts under his belt.

--Jeff Halpern 

Wynne victory a relief during continuing adversity from spring tornado 

Wynne’s 35-0 rout of Magnolia on Friday night at freshly renovated Yellowjacket Stadium was much more than a number in the win column.

For a community that is still recovering due to the devastation caused from the March 31 EF3 tornado, it was just another example of continuing to defy the odds.

“Our people have stuck behind us, and we appreciate that,” Totty said. “A lot of people have been praying for us throughout the state. This was big for our kids and school morale, along with the entire town. All these guys chose to be here and we have six seniors that could have left.”

Essentially, all of Wynne’s campus was heavily damaged, or completely destroyed, from the storm including the football field. Nearly all of the turf was completely ripped from the ground and traveled as far as Dyersburg (Tenn.) over 120 miles away.

The reconstruction across campus is still ongoing.

“We were not able to lift weights last week because they were repairing a hole in the roof,” Totty said. “It is something like that every day.”

The Yellowjackets struggled in their first two contests against higher classification, falling to 6A Marion and 7A Fort Smith Southside in the September 8 home opener by a combined 62-14.

In the dominant performance against Magnolia, Wynne rushed for just shy of 300 yards while holding Magnolia to 100, had 22 first downs compared to the Panthers’ three and refused to give the ball away, possessing it for 36 of the 48 minute contest.

The Yellowjackets put up 21 points in the first half that got started halfway through the first quarter on quarterback John Watson’s one-yard sneak. Watson compiled 117 yards of total offense and two rushing touchdowns, while Cameron Smith added 121 yards with two touchdowns and Donte Smith racked up 93 yards and the game’s final touchdown.

“When we got up it was like a 100-pound bear was lifted off of their back,” Totty said. “Previously, it was almost like they were beat down so much that they did not know that some good things could happen.”

The trio of Brayden Mattox, Sy Marrs and Donte Smith were notable standouts on defense, which Totty praised the efforts of them, along with every player who has had no choice but to play both ways.

“We have guys who never come off of the field,” Totty said.” They are playing ironman football. We had 18 days that we could have practiced (during Week 1 in late August) prior to Marion and we only got nine of those because of the heat protocols. When you have guys going both ways, there is no way that we can really get in condition. “

Totty added that his team was forced to practice on a 30-yard field that was previously utilized by the band. Due to the lack of space, plus having limited depth being a 5A school and fielding only 34 players, it has been tough to get the kind of looks that would simulate an actual game.

Despite the score not showing it in the first two contests, Totty had seen some positives and felt like everything came together all at once against Magnolia.

“A lot of our kids flip from offense, defense and kicking game,” Totty said. “Playing games helped us, but four of our six offensive lineman counting our tight end are sophomores and they improved a lot. That helped our backs have more room to make cuts and that group is just going to continue to get better.”

Beating Magnolia is Totty’s first victory at Wynne, but he kept his status as the state’s winningest active head coach with 243 victories, one more than former Yellowjackets coach Van Paschal. Now in the same position at Heber Springs, Paschal also won his first game with Heber 42-8 over Jonesboro Westside last Friday night.

--Kyle Sutherland