PINCKNEYVILLE -- Quarterback Hunter Riggins engineered a 12-play, 66-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter here Friday night in leading the Pinckneyville Panthers to a 23-20 over winless Benton.
Riggins scored the winning touchdown on a 7-yard run with just over four minutes to play. He was responsible for 40 yards rushing during the drive and finished the night with 92 yards on the ground.
Benton went four and out on its next drive, and after stopping the Panthers near midfield, the Rangers fumbled a punt, killing any chances of a late comeback.
There were three lead changes in the first half. Benton scored first on a 44-yard Joey Craig pass reception from quarterback Grant Gordon. Craig would catch six balls for 90 yards.
On the first play of the second quarter, Chase Fulkerson intercepted a Gordon pass and ran it back 26 yards for a touchdown. Benton retook the lead on its next possession on 50-yard pass play with Jaron Picklesimer on the receiving end.
Pinckneyville went up 14-12 with 4:23 left in the second quarter on a Riggins to Lucas Downward 50-yard pass play. Benton grabbed its 20-14 halftime lead on a 1-yard run by Gordon with 17 seconds remaining.
Benton was pinned deep in its own territory to start the third quarter. And following a bad snap from center, Rangers' punter Chance Devore kicked the ball out of the end zone, resulting in a safety.
Devore had to kick from Benton's 20 on the ensuing kickoff. Kicking the ball out of bounds, Pinckneyville coaches elected to have Devore rekick from the 15. Devore boomed the second attempt, causing the Panthers to start from their own 25.
"He's our special teams player of the game almost every time we take the field," said Benton coach Justin Groves. "His kicking is a little inconsistent at times but when he gets a hold of one, man it's gone, and he's a big weapon for us."
Pinckneyville's drive stalled at the Benton 28 and the Rangers failed on their final offensive possession, hampered by two penalties. That set up Pinckneyville's winning drive that took five minutes off the game clock.
"It said a lot for our kids when we were down at halftime and we came out and shut them out in the second half," said Pinckneyville coach Tod Rushing. "We made some huge plays when we needed them and the offense made a huge drive when we needed it. A year ago we didn't have that. They're starting to believe in themselves.
"I thought Benton played a good game. We had film on them from the first two games and I thought they played better than they had the first two games. When you're 0-2 it's easy to hang your head and quit and I thought their kids played hard," he added.
"I can't say enough about how proud of our kids. We're just not able to put it all together at the same time," said Groves. "You see the flashes of brilliance … we came up short in key situations."
For the first time this season, Benton rushed for over 100 yards with senior back Andrew Dunn accounting for 105 of the 106 total rushing yards. Gordon was 10-of-18 in the air for 170 yards and the pick six.
Pinckneyville improved to 2-1 while the Rangers fell to 0-3. Benton will host Herrin, an overtime loser to Du Quoin this past week, in its first conference matchup this season.