Danny Czerwinski, Section618.com
Benton — Military Appreciation Night brings out the best pomp and circumstance at high school football games. You add to the recipe that the Benton Rangers were playing their first ever Mississippi Division game in football and Du Quoin for the first time since 1997, the energy and excitement was palpable. So much so, it felt like a playoff game with the crowd. However, it was the Du Quoin Indians who resorted back to their traditional winning ways to remain undefeated beating the Rangers 21-15.
Both teams came out with some nerves but it was Du Quoin that got the first two big plays. The first play came on fourth down and a fake punt from the red and black. Camden Waller found PJ Winters for 84 yards to put the Indians up 7-0 with 7:16 left in the first quarter.
However, the Rangers were able to answer back with a very nice drive of their own. It was a 12 play, 74 yard drive that ended with a 31 yard Jesser Zepeda field goal. The lead for Du Quoin was cut to 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was both teams trading short drives but the Indians were able to score the final points of the first half. Putting together a vintage Du Quoin scoring drive, the Indians used 6 plus minutes their next touchdown. It took 11 plays going 54 yards with Waller throwing his second touchdown of the game finding Brayden Jokisch to make it 14-3 Du Quoin at halftime.
With the momentum squarely on the side of the team from Perry County, the Rangers were looking for a break. They got one in the form of a fumble on the first drive of the third quarter by Du Quoin. Benton capitalized quickly on a 4 play, 20 yard drive in under two minutes. Tiffin Kouzoukas found Kyle Thomas open for a 9 yard pass for Benton’s first touchdown of the game. This got the Rangers back to within 14-9 at the end of the third quarter.
After both teams exchanged scoreless drives, it was Benton who earned their first lead of the night. A drive that started at the end of the third quarter finished in the fourth with a touchdown. 12 plays, 89 yards, and over 5 minutes of clock time ended in a Kouzoukas 1 yard run to give the Rangers a 15-14 lead with 8:36 left in the game.
For the first of two times, it looked like Du Quoin was going to take the lead. Inside the red zone, Waller threw a pass that was picked off by Zepeda in the end zone to stop a Du Quoin drive for the time being.
The Rangers took over and marched the ball down the field to the Du Quoin 23 yard line. It was there that Benton turned it over on downs with just 33 seconds left.
This time, the Indians took advantage with another big scoring play. Waller found Winters again on the first play from scrimmage for a 77 yard touchdown to give Du Quoin the lead with 33 seconds to go in the game. It was a lead the Indians wouldn’t give up as they went on to win 21-15.
The Indians improve to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Mississippi Division. They will host Pinckneyville next week. Benton drops to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the Mississippi Division. They will travel to Anna-Jonesboro next week.