When Little Rock Catholic Coach John Fogleman specifically pointed out that his team would have to improve on offense and play with more physicality on defense going into it game against Nolan (Texas) Catholic two weeks ago, the tone in his voice indicated that he meant every word of it.
There was no hesitation or trepidation on his part. If his Rockets were going to have a chance against a team that nearly won a state title in Texas last year, they were going to have to be mounds better than they were the week before in a 37-7 loss to Jonesboro. Catholic was eventually beaten by Nolan in triple overtime, but in the Rockets' case, they looked nothing like the team that was blown away by 30 points in the opener.
On Friday night, Catholic (0-2), which didn't play last week, may have to be even better to take down Benton.
The Panthers had an extended amount of time to lick their wounds following a loss to Saline County rival Bryant on Aug. 28 in the Salt Bowl. Benton (1-1) returned from an open date to zip past Little Rock Southwest 63-19 last week behind a big outing from quarterback Stran Smith, who threw for 293 yards and three touchdowns in the first two quarters.
All of that, along with a 122-yard, two-score performance from running back Brandon Johnson, led to a 56-6 halftime advantage for Benton. While a 50-point lead after the opening half isn't expected when the Panthers face the Rockets at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Benton is the kind of team that can score in bunches when it gets cranked up offensively.
Catholic, again, will have to be stout inside and out, especially against Benton's speedy receivers. The Rockets, who won last year's meeting 35-28, also showed that they can pile up points and yardage, as evident against Nolan when Connor Pruss ran for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns and Preston Scott threw for 385 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Big games from those two standouts will increase Catholic's chances of picking up its first victory of the season, but Benton is going to do everything it can to try and keep that from happening: Benton 41, Catholic 31
BRYANT AT LONGVIEW, TEXAS The top team in Arkansas isn't shying away from a challenge because that's precisely what it will get against one of the top Class 5A, Division I squads in Texas. The Hornets' 32-game winning streak will be on the line in this one, too: Bryant 34, Longview 33
SAND SPRINGS, OKLA. AT SHILOH CHRISTIAN The only team to beat Shiloh Christian last season comes to Springdale for a do-over. The Saints have been off a week so they'll be more than ready to play. But Sand Springs is good – very good. A lot of points will be scored in a game that could go either way: Shiloh Christian 42, Sand Springs 35
McGEHEE AT CROSSETT A difficult matchup for each team, which makes it even more intriguing. McGehee has speed everywhere, just like Crossett. The Eagles do own very impressive victories over Osceola and Magnolia and has a slight edge at home. ... maybe: Crossett 38, McGehee 36
VILONIA AT RUSSELLVILLE One of the better games on the schedule in Week 3. Both are scoring at a high clip, both have made plays on defense and both have plenty of incentive to win this one. Russellville will try to prove it's much better than it was a year ago, when Vilonia beat the Cyclones by five: Russellville 35, Vilonia 33
CHARLESTON AT OZARK These two have been battling for Franklin County bragging rights for a long time. Charleston has won six to the past eight meetings, but Ozark rolled the past two years by a combined 53 points. Brandon Scott is doing his thing for the Tigers, though: Charleston 30, Ozark 28
FORT SMITH NORTHSIDE AT SPRINGDALE HAR-BER Northside may be looking for a measure of revenge after Har-Ber ended the Grizzlies' 2020 season with a 21-point victory in the playoffs. The Wildcats are hoping to get their first victory of the year in their home opener: Northside 28, Har-Ber 24
LITTLE ROCK PARKVIEW AT PINE BLUFF Parkview had just enough to slip past White Hall a week ago and now gets a Pine Bluff team that hasn't played since Aug. 27. The Patriots have been getting it done behind Jaylon White, but they're going to be pushed: Parkview 34, Pine Bluff 26
McCRORY AT BAPTIST PREP A big home crowd should be on hand to see undefeated Baptist Prep face Class 2A's No. 1 team. McCrory is certainly battled tested, having played three high-quality teams already, but the Jaguars shouldn't be surprised by what the Eagles throw at them: McCrory 36, Baptist Prep 22
RIVERCREST AT BROOKLAND Rivercrest had a chance to steal one on the road against Valley View but came up short. Now the Colts will take aim on the road again against a Brookland team that's been stout on defense in what should be a back-and-forth battle. Rivercrest 26, Brookland 21
CARLISLE AT LAMAR Scoring points hasn't been an issue for Carlisle over the past two weeks but keeping other teams from doing the same has been. The Bison have surrendered at least 54 points in each of their first three games. Lamar is averaging 35.5 points: Lamar 44, Carlisle 26
MOUNTAIN HOME AT BATESVILLE It's been tough sledding for Batesville through two games this year. Yet, all is not lost for the Pioneers. The good news is that they're hungry to get win No. 1. The bad news, Mountain Home is also hungry to get that first victory as well: Mountain Home 28, Batesville 20
LITTLE ROCK CHRISTIAN AT CENTER HILL, MISS. Jayvean Dyer-Jones and the Little Rock Christian offense has been potent all year. Still, the trip to Olive Branch, Miss., isn't expected to be a breeze. The Warriors should have no trouble scoring against a defense that's given up 120 points in three games. Little Rock Christian 42, Center Hill 28
FORDYCE AT MONTICELLO The two-time Class 2A champs haven't missed much of a beat this year. Fordyce, despite new starters all over the field, has found ways to win, which is what the Redbugs have done for the past 20 games. Monticello has lost seven of the past nine between the two: Fordyce 28, Monticello 14
POCAHONTAS AT NETTLETON A lot of grit was shown a week ago by Nettleton in its come-from-behind victory over Mountain Home. The Raiders will have to display that toughness once again because Pocahontas is more than formidable, especially on the ground: Nettleton 35, Pocahontas 28