It was hard to tell who wanted to make a faster impression Friday night — Northwood punt returner Kennie Dixson or quarterback Jerrick Peterson.
Regardless of the impetus, both delivered in similar fashion.
Dixson returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown four plays into the game and Peterson tossed five touchdown passes, including one on Northwood’s first offensive snap, as the Falcons routed District 1-4A rival Benton, 56-21, on Friday night at Jerry Burton Stadium.
“I just knew I had to go out and make a play for the team so we could start the game with momentum,” Dixson said. “It was a returnable punt. I try to make big-time plays in big-time situations.”
After two straight losses, the Falcons (5-2, 1-1) got plenty of big-time plays up and down the roster Friday.
Peterson’s first snap of the game set the offensive tone, as he found Angelo Robert running free behind the Benton secondary for an 83-yard touchdown pass. Less than 4 minutes into the game, Northwood had surpassed its point total from a 15-12 loss to Woodlawn in Week 6’s District 1-4A opener.
“We got off on the right foot; that’s for sure,” Northwood coach Jim Gatlin said. “We played good football a couple of quarters, but we’ve never put four quarters together. Good stops on defense; offense makes a huge play. This was definitely our best effort of the season.”
Peterson wouldn’t call his night the best one he’s had in his first season as a starter. Despite throwing for 311 yards and five touchdowns, Peterson was not 100 percent satisfied.
“It’s all right,” Peterson said. “I’m striving to do better, just keep going forward.”
Peterson spoke of trusting his receivers and his stats bear that out. His five
touchdown passes went to three different receivers — two each to Martavious Washington and Trey Walker and the one to start the game to Robert.
The long opening touchdown to Robert helped put Benton (3-4, 1-1) in an uncomfortable position.
The Tigers run a Wing-T offense, one built to grind out yards and time. Giving up 32 points in the first quarter, as it did Friday, is not part of Benton’s recipe for success.
“They got off to a hot start,” Benton coach Caleb Guidry said. “We helped them, turned the ball over a few times. They outplayed us tonight. We’ve got to play our game — control the clock and protect the football, two things we did not do in the first half.”
Connect with Jason Pugh on Twitter at @JasonSPugh.