Kani Benoit mishandled the opening kickoff. It was all good after that.
Benoit, appearing trapped at his 5, found his bearings and sprinted 95 yards for a touchdown. The senior running back was just warming up.
Benoit added five more touchdowns, including another kickoff return, and host Phoenix Thunderbird withstood four second-half touchdown passes from Kenneth Heinzerling for a 54-37 Division III football victory over Phoenix Greenway on Thursday night.
Coach Brent Wittenwyler said that Benoit has received scholarship offers from small four-year colleges with some bigger schools wanting to wait until mid-way through the season, before considering an offer to the speedy, shifty, powerful kid.
After rushing for 122 yards in the first half, Benoit had a 90-yard scoring run to go with a 1-yard plunge to keep Greenway (2-3) from pulling any miraculous comeback.
“He’s on the radar right now with Wyoming and Boise State and North Dakota State and some other schools wanted to see what he could do the first half of the season,” Wittenwyler said. “I’m thinking right now there are going to be some schools now calling.”
Benoit outdueled Greenway running back Mark Dogbah, after Dogbah responded to Benoit’s opening kickoff return with a 72-yard touchdown run.
In a reckless second quarter in which both teams turned the ball over twice, Thunderbird struck fast with Benoit punishing defenders. During one series, Benoit ripped off runs of 28, 14, 18 and 3 yards to give Thunderbird a 21-10 lead.
The lead was 34-10 at the half after Thunderbird (3-2) scored a touchdown on another Benoit run and then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Two plays later, junior Jake Glatting threw his second touchdown pass, a 29-yard catch-and-run by sophomore Adam Turner, with three seconds remaining.
Greenway (2-3) had a 10-7 lead with 1:43 left in the first quarter.
After throwing three interceptions, Heinzerling threw four second-half touchdown passes to make it interesting.
But it was too much Benoit in the end.
“We’re getting better every week and that’s our goal,” Wittenwyler said.