Saturday at Tabor Field Benton took apart 11-time playoff team Monticello in all aspects of the game beating the Sages 42-12 to remain undefeated and advance to the IHSA 3A football quarterfinals for the fifth time in the program's history.
The last time the Rangers advanced to the quarterfinals was in 2002. This week Benton hits the road to playMt. Carmel in a battle of 11-0 teams. The game is scheduled to be played Saturday at 2 p.m.
"It's going to be fun leaving Tabor Field this week because if we win that one we're home for really big ones," Groves said. "We know what Mt. Carmel has because we saw them this summer. We get together in camp in the summer and then we see them at 7-on-7s. It's two teams that are rooting for each all year and it's kind of destiny we're meeting in the playoffs."
The game also saw four team records fall with quarterback Keegan Glover throwing for 291 yards to give him 2,153 career passing yards to break the record of 1,906 set by Hamilton Page in 2017. The senior also threw four touchdown passes to give him 77 for his career moving him up to 20th on the Illinois all-time list.
"The record was not on my mind - all I was thinking about was getting a 'W' and that's what we did," Glover said. "Every game we want to punch them in the mouth the first play and that's how we win."
Senior wide receiver Reid Baumgarte caught six passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns to set two records for single season yardage and career touchdowns.
Defensively senior defensive back Chase Thomas finished the game tied for the lead in tackles with eight to give him 98 tackles for the season to break Blane Pankey's record of 96 also set in 2017.
The Ranger defense intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble in the first half leading directly to four touchdowns as Benton jumped out to 35-6 halftime lead.
It all started on the second play of the game when Baumgarte intercepted Sage quarterback Joey Sprinkle's first pass setting up the Rangers at the 50. Six plays later Glover scored from the five and Benton led 7-0 just 3:36 into the game.
"I was just reading the quarterback and he looked the other way and looked that off and then looked my way and the pass was kind of lobbed up and I just went up and got it," Baumgarte said. "It was a big momentum swing. We win the toss and defer and then we get the ball two plays in."
The Ranger defense held the Sages to a 3-ond-out punt, but the offense stalled after Wyatt Upton was tackled for an eight-yard loss on 2nd-and-6 from the Sage 46. Glover's punt rolled all the way down to the Monticello two.
Sprinkle got his revenge on the next play finding Peyton Scott behind a defender in the middle of field for a 98-yard touchdown pass. Sprinkle's extra point kick sailed left leaving the Rangers up 7-6.
Upton returned the kickoff 19 yards to the Benton 45. Following an incomplete pass on the first play the Rangers ripped off big chunks of yardage on a 12-yard pass to Upton, an 18-yard run by Glover around right end followed by a 14-yard gain by Glover on the same play. With 2:45 left in the first quarter Glover scored his second five-yard touchdown run and the Rangers led 14-6.
Monticello drove from its own 30 to the Benton 29 when Glover intercepted Sprinkle at the 13 and returned the ball to the 27.
Then like lightning in a bottle Glover found a wide open Newsom in the middle of the field for an easy 73-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left in the quarter and in one foul swoop the career passing yards and the single season receiving yardage records fell. Newsom finished the game with 929 career receiving yards surpassing Cade Thomas' 2017 record of 777.
The Sages were on the march again after the kickoff driving from its own 20 to the Rangers 31 when Jaden Ford stopped the drive in its tracks recovering a fumble at the 28 and returning it 20 yards to the 48.
Lightning struck again with Glover and Baumgarte connecting on a 52-yard touchdown pass and with 8:24 left in the half the Rangers upped their lead to 28-6.
"On the first touchdown it was my buddy Chase Thomas running a good route in front of me pulling that safety over on the corner, so that left me running a post route in the middle of the field with nobody there," Baumgarte said. "On the second it was the same route and circumstances with the same results."
The defense held Monticello to another 3-and-out punt, but the offense managed just 16 yards on its possession and a 23-yard punt set up the Sages at their own 43. Four plays later Upton intercepted Sprinkle at the Benton 36.
After an incomplete pass on first down Glover went to work gaining 21 yards on a draw and following with seven, one and nine yards runs around left end to set up the Rangers at the Sage 28.
Then came the athletic play of the game. Glover scrambled to his right and just before he was pushed out of bounds the senior heaved a Hail Mary pass into traffic that Zach Howell caught in the right corner of the end zone. Eli Hanson kicked his fifth extra point and with 25.8 seconds left in the half the Rangers led 35-6.
The second half wasn't quite as exciting with only two touchdowns scored between the two teams, but the one Ranger score was significant. With 4:34 remaining in the third quarter Glover and Baumgarte connected for a 12-yard touchdown pass to give Baumgarte 21 career touchdown passes breaking Ayden Newcomb's record of 20 set last year.
"I was more concerned about winning the game, because I thought it was going to be a much closer game than this," Baumgarte said. "I never worry about records, but my buddy Ayden was here to see me break his record. That was pretty cool."
Two more records could fall against Mt. Carmel. Thomas needs two tackles to break Peyton Swigonski's record of 216.5 career tackles set last year and Baumgarte needs three catches to the break Cade Thomas's single season record of 49 set in 2017.
Benton 42, Monticello 12
Monticello 06 00 00 06 -- 12
Benton 21 14 07 00 -- 42
First Downs: MT 17, BEN 27; Penalties-Yards: MT 7-70, BEN 6-65; Fumbles-Lost: MT 2-1, BEN 2-2.
RUSHING: MT-Jacob Tackett 10-70-1TD, Joey Sprinkle 13-35, Taylor Bundy 1-(-8). BEN-Keegan Glover 18-124-2TD, Wyatt Upton 12-28, Jacob Kinsman 3-18, Landon Bolen 2-9, Reid Baumgarte 1-6.
PASSING: MT-Joey Sprinkle 15-32-3int-227-1TD. BEN-Keegan Glover 18-24-0int-291-4TD.
RECEIVING: MT-Triston Foran 7-76, Peyton Scott 5-115-1TD, Jacob Tackett 1-16, Spencer Mitze 1-12, Thomas Swartz 1-8. BEN-Reid Baumgarte 6-157-3TD, Zach Howell 5-62-1TD, Wyatt Upton 3-32, Landon Bolen 1-15, Chase Thomas 1-14, Rylan Perkins 1-8, Isaiah Ward 1-3.