Spirit of Hot SpringsREAD ONLINE
Benton Panthers: Young players highlight Benton seasonPublished August 25, 2013 at 4:00 a.m.
Benton won its first playoff game in eight years last season, but this year, with only five starters returning on offense and two on defense, it’s a youth movement for the Panthers and coach Scott Neathery.
“We have a lot of young talents. But they are still sophomores,” he said. “The seniors have had chances to play but for many of them, this is their first time as starters.”
Benton, like many of the school in the conference is a Spread offense with multiple set, but they are moving away from being primarily a running team.
“We are doing more spread sets,” Neathery said, “We’re looking for a more balanced attack.”
Leading the offense will be a two-man team of quarterbacks.
“Senior Tarek Beaugard (5-8, 140) and sophomore Cason Maertens (6-0, 710) are the co-starters,” the coach said.
“Tarek was good last year until he got hurt, but he is back at 100 percent.”
Beaugard ran and passed for 1,495 yards and 15 touchdowns in only eight games last year. Neathery said Beaugard is more of a running quarterback who will be at receiver when Maertens in behind center.
“Maertens is a pure passer,” said the coach. “He has a good head and is football smart and coachable. But he is still a sophomore.”
The sophomore had an impressive junior high career, including an 8-2 season last year with the junior varsity.
Neathery said he will “go with the hot hand” when it comes to who will be playing quarterback.
Also in the backfield will be Shaun Carey (5-10, 170), a returning starter at running back.
“He has 4.47 speed and started all year as a main back,” Neathery said. “Senior Ryan Rodriguez, a three-year starter, will be rotating at running back.”
Sophomore Drew Dyer (5-9, 175) will be an H-back and rotate in all the running positions, the coach said.
The coach said senior Benjamin McKinley (5-11, 170) will be one of the receivers who can also block for another receiver down field. J.V. Davis (6-0, 150) is a senior who will share receiving duties with Beaugard
The coach said Tarek is a good receiver, “especially when you get him in space.”
Sam Baker, (5-10, 160) a junior, who had playing time last year but never started, “can make good catches,” according to Neathery.
Junior Nicholas Quinn (5-10, 160) and sophomore Colton Nix will both see playing time this year, the coach said.
At the center of the offensive line will be senior center, Zach Pinkerton, (5-8, 210). However, the coach said, battles are still going on for a place in the line.
Senior Cole Cleghorn (5-11, 240) and junior Kellan Hancock (6-4, 325) are established players and the coach said sophomore tackle Roy Blalock (6-3, 225), would also have playing time on the line.
Coach Neathery says there are few offensive-defensive crossovers in his complex scheme. The defensive line will be rotating players. Senior Austin Viners is battling for an end spot with sophomore John Penn (5-11, 195), who is also the team deep-snapper.
On the other end, the coach says, Zack Smiley (6-2, 215) is rotating with junior Garrett Taylor (6-0, 200). The interior line has a place for Andrew Perez (5-11, 205), who Neathery said could play anywhere up front. Sophomore Dylan Murphy (5-10, 210) earned a spot on the varsity in mid-season last year and could play end.
There are three linebackers, including senior Will Ashcraft (5-10, 170), as well as two brothers, senior Jesus Gamez and sophomore Julio
“They are good kids who can work hard,” the coach said.
Two more linebackers looking for playing time are Junior Tim Dezort (5-10, 165) and sophomore Ben Brazell (5-11, 160).
Playing corner back will be three players, Joe Griffith (6-10, 175), Rodriguez and senior Rashaud Porter (6-0, 165).
Senior safety Jesse Benton (5-6, 140) had three interceptions last year and junior Stone Paul (5-9, 165) stepped in late in the second half of last season.
The kicker is junior Grant Hinze, who can be consistent in the 40-yard range, according to Coach Neathery.
The Panthers are relatively “inexperienced with a number of new players in the starting roles,” the coach said. However, he said, the team is strong and “has the right attitude to make things happen.”