Saturday, September 12, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville suffers second big loss

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils could get nothing going offensively, and couldn’t stop the Benton Panthers defensively in their home opener Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The visiting Panthers shut out the Red Devils for the second year in a row, this time 42-0.

Benton scored first with just 88 seconds ticked off the clock. Jacksonville hit a big play on the ensuing drive when quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham hit receiver Harderrious Martin for a 54-yard gain to the Benton 15, but the Red Devils went backwards from there and punted from the 34-yard line.

Benton then went 86 yards in nine plays for a 14-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers intercepted Hickingbotham on the second play of the ensuing drive and scored three plays later, making it 21-0 still in the first quarter.

Jacksonville went three and out, and a bad punt snap gave Benton possession on the Red Devil 12-yard line. Two plays later, the Panthers led 28-0 with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.

The miscues continued in the second quarter. After a 20-yard pickup by Robert Knowlin, a fumble and Benton recovery gave the Panthers the ball at the Jacksonville 33. On the very next play, Benton scored and added an extra point with 11:12 left until halftime.

Another punt snafu set Benton up on the Jacksonville 26, but Red Devil defensive back Stevie Eskridge picked off a pass at the 5-yard line.

The Red Devils moved the ball to midfield, but Hickingbotham was sacked on fourth down to give Benton possession. The Panthers scored for the final time on a five-play drive that set the final margin with 3:23 left in the second quarter.

The clock ticked the entire second half and each team got just three possessions. Jacksonville linebacker Malcolm Crudup got an interception at the Red Devil 20 and returned it 68 yards before being dragged down at the Benton 12. But Jacksonville was unable to score, throwing incomplete in the end zone on fourth down.

Jacksonville had just 63 net yards of offense. Benton had 366 total yards.