BENTON On his first carry Friday, Benton running back Jermaine Newton Jr. ripped through Ellender’s defense for 14 yards. Unfortunately, the junior had the football ripped from his hands on the brink of the red zone.
Instead of being subjected to a tongue lashing from Tigers head coach Reynolds Moore, and time on the pine in the first playoff game of the season, No. 22’s number was called as soon as Benton had the ball again – at nearly the same spot he’d just coughed it up.
Again, Newton left several Patriots in his wake as he angled toward the left corner of field. This time, Newton held onto that ball and found the end zone from 20 yards out.
The touchdown sparked a Benton rout and boosted the confidence of the Tigers’ tailback.
Newton amassed 97 yards and two touchdowns, while Benton quarterback Garrett Hable tossed four touchdowns in the Tigers’ 63-28 victory in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. The 10th-seeded Tigers will travel to No. 7 Rayne for a second-round matchup next week.
“I trust that kid with everything,” Moore said of Newton. “He’s maybe fumbled two or three times. He came to sideline and I said, ‘You can pout about it or make up for it.’ Even if a guy makes a mistake, I’m big on, ‘You have to dance with the one who brung ya.’ We went right back to him.”
Newton had 97 yards and two touchdowns Friday.
“It’s good because he trusts me in what I do,” Newton said. “It felt great. I knew I had messed up and didn’t cover the ball right. It felt great to do it right when I got the ball the next time.”
A 4-yard touchdown from Newton on Benton’s next possession run put the Tigers up two scores and set the stage for a 35-0 first-half lead.
“When (Newton) is going, he makes it tough inside that box,” Moore said. “When you add in the 1-2 punch with (running back) Keldric Moody, it opens up the outside for us.”
Hable’s right arm complemented Newton’s incessant legs. He toyed with Ellender’s defense as he spread the ball among three different receivers, Legend Denier, Doyle Adams Jr., and John Westmoreland.
Hable completed 16 of 26 passes for 249 yards and the quartet of scores.
“It seemed like he hit seven, eight or nine straight,” Moore said. “He was on fire and as accurate as I’ve seen him. Balance isn’t 50-50, but it’s the fact we can run or throw anytime we want to.”
Westmoreland led the Tigers with 90 yards receiving and two touchdowns on six catches. Denier added 85 yards and a score on four grabs. Adams Jr., who also played defense, scored on one of his six catches and posted 94 total yards (20 rushing).
The Tigers’ defense put on quite a show for three quarters, too. Cole Horton’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown helped push Benton’s lead to 49-6 before Ellender quarterback/receiver DaVontavien Martin turned into a one-man show for the final 12-plus minutes.
Martin was silent for most of the game, but tallied three touchdowns in less than 7 minutes.
“Last year, when Northwood had (Marquez) Stevenson and Minden had (L’Jarius) Sneed, they both put up big numbers,” Moore said. “We won those games, but we saw what one player can do.
“We don’t want to look past Rayne, but if it goes past that, teams are going to have three or four (Martins).”
Martin led all receivers with 128 yards, added 35 yards on the ground, a pair of 2-point conversions and also completed one of two pass attempts.
But the Tigers’ quick start left no doubt about the outcome of the game.
A confident, joyous Newton says Benton needs more of the same to keep the dream of the Dome alive.
“This team is pretty dangerous, especially when we start a game like that,” he said. “We need to start explosive and finish.”
All four District 1-4A teams (No. 5 Minden, No. 6 Woodlawn, No. 14 North DeSoto) were victorious Friday.