Danny Czerwinski, Section618.com
Since 2019, the Ohio Division Championship of the SIRR has been in the hands of the Benton Rangers or Murphysboro Red-Devils. This changes in 2023 with Benton heading to the Mississippi Division. However, even with this non-conference game being in week three not week eight as normal, there was still plenty of rivarly, hard play, and the Red-Devils ending a 3 game losing streak to Benton with the 35-9 win at home.
From the opening kickoff, you knew this game was going to be a little different. Murphy won the toss, deferred to the second half, but bunted the kickoff over the Benton front line of their special teams. The Red-Devils recovered and the game was on. Benton made a defensive stand and kept the crimson and corn out of the end zone for the time being.
Field position favored Murphy early and often and lead to the first score. It began with a 4 play, 2 minute drive of 39 yards ending in a Gibson Fager to Tyjaire Kellum for a 28 yard touchdown pass. The 2 point conversion was good and Murphy lead 8-0 with 6:11 left in the first quarter.
Benton answered back with a 9 play, 85 yard drive of 5 minutes that ended in an Izaiah Dalton 2 yard plunge. The Rangers wanted to go for 2 points, were assessed a penalty, and thus kicked the extra point to trail 8-7 with 1:50 left in the first quarter.
The very next drive saw Murphy score quickly and in vintage style. Josh Cano broke away from the Benton defense for a 57 yard touchdown run giving Murphy a 15-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. The drive only took just over a minute covering 76 yards and 5 plays.
Disaster struck the Benton offense with a fumbled snap on their first possession of the second quarter. This again tilted the field position battle to Murphy and they took advantage. Again a quick strike drive of 34 seconds covering 25 yards ended in a Bryson Canaley 10 yard touchdown run giving Murphy a 22-7 lead starting the second quarter.
Scoring waned the rest of the first half. The Rangers were able to move the football but couldn’t get it into the end zone. Their last points of the game came on a safety late in the second quarter. It was a botched snap getting by the punter going out of the end zone with 1:57 left in the second quarter giving a halftime score of 22-9 in favor of the Red-Devils.
Like the first half, there were several penalties on both sides and even the teams at times had more penalty yards then offensive yards at times in the second half. There were multiple personal foul penalties on both sides with slowed the game and rhythm down for the teams.
Murphy was able to get one touchdown each quarter of the second half. It was Kellum both times on the ground from 21 and 66 yards for the Red-Devils. The scoring was done for the night and Murphy was able to secure the 35-9 win. Kellum ended the night with 3 touchdowns on the night with 1 catch and 2 on the ground.
The Red-Devils improved to 3-0 and will host Massac County in the opening week of Ohio Division play. Benton drops to 1-2 overall and hosts Du Quoin next week to open up Mississippi Division play.