After Benton dismantled Murphysboro, 55-14, on the road to give the Red Devils only their second loss of the season the Rangers will stay on the road and take their 8-0 record to The Pit Friday to take on Anna-Jonesboro in a non-conference game to end the regular season.
"We played virtually mistake free, but the one thing that's encouraging is we can still find ways to get better," said Benton coach Justin Groves. "We've got another opportunity this week. Anna is looking for a win to get in the playoffs, so they are going to be prepared and we're going to have to be on top of our game."
It the Rangers beat the Wildcats (4-4) it will be the 10th time in the program's history Benton will finish the regular season unbeaten and untied. The last two times the Rangers was under Coach Jeff Roper in 2001 and 1999. The previous seven times were in 1936 (6-0), 1932 (8-0), 1931 (9-0), 1928 (8-0), 1921 (9-0), 1920 (9-0) and 1917 (11-0).
In addition to earning a playoff berth for the second straight season the Rangers won the SIRR Ohio Division championship outright for the second year in a row and third straight after being co-champs with Murphysboro in 2019. Previously the Rangers won the title outright in 2001 and 1999 and were co or tri-champs in 1998 and 1997.
Last week the Benton offense was so proficient that it scored a touchdown on each of its seven possessions. Defensively the Rangers forced three turnovers, including a 30-yard fumble return for a touchdown by nose guard Ethan Furlow in the fourth quarter.
"We finally put it all together," Groves said. "We finally had breaks that went our way. The wind was in our favor. The rain was in our favor. Everything worked perfect for us."
The Rangers out-gained the Red Devils 449 yards to 234 averaging 11.4 yards a play. Quarterback Keegan Glover completed 3-of-4 passes for 35 yards.
"They took away our passing game, so we didn't even try early in the game," Groves said. "They were leaving us nice numbers in the box, so we ran it. They didn't change a whole lot, so we didn't change a whole lot. We ended up putting 400 yards on the ground."
Running back Wyatt Upton rushed for 201 yards on 15 carries with three touchdown runs covering one yard in the first quarter, five yards in the third quarter and 42 yards in the fourth quarter.
"In my opinion Wyatt is the best all around running back in our conference and he plays both ways for us," Groves said. "He protects the ball really well, he blocks real well, he runs real well, he's tough, he's strong, he's everything you want in a running back. He's had some good games and he was due to have a big breakout game and he finally did. He was fired up as any kid I've ever seen and he played that way. It's great getting him going at a good time."
Glover rushed for 102 yards on 12 carries and also scored three touchdowns. He scored the first touchdown of the game on an eight-yard run and scored twice in the second quarter on a 20-yard run and a 10-yard run.
"They had a game plan to try to neutralize Glover because he has the ability to extend plays, throw the ball downfield and make big plays," Groves said. "They took that away from us, but what they did was left lanes to run through, so we ran him intentionally downhill right at them. They didn't know who to key on. They took away one dimension of our offense, but luckily we're not bound to one side and we can still be pretty good. We ran the ball very well and that was the best game I've seen our offensive line play in the four years I've been here."
The starting offensive line was left tackle Bradley Longfellow, left guard Josh White, center Hunter Moss, right guard Kade Clark and right tackle Patrick Stanley.
"The success of our season has revolved around the offensive line's progression," Groves said. "It makes play calling a little easier when you can run in the "A" gap and it goes for 30."
Jacob Kinsman added 56 runs on four carries and Landen Bolen 55 yards on five carries, including a five-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Benton 55, Murphysboro 14
Benton 14 14 14 13 - 55
Murphysboro 0 7 0 7 - 14
First Downs: BEN 25, MB 11. Penalties: BEN 8-70, MB 6-30. Fumbles-Lost: BEN 0-0, MB 3-2.
RUSHING: BEN-Wyatt Upton 15-201-3TD, Keegan Glover 12-102-3TD, Jacob Kinsman 4-56, Landen Bolen 5-55-1TD. MB-Devon Clemons 13-174-2TD, Ethan Finke 3-5, Calvon Clemons 5-3, Drew Caldwell 7-(-3).
PASSING: BEN- Keegan Glover 3-4-0int-35-0TD. MB-Drew Caldwell 6-13-0int-55-0TD.
RECEIVING: BEN-Reid Baumgarte 2-30, Isaiah Ward 1-5. MB-Calvon Clemons 3-32, Grayson Guthman 3-23.