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Benton at Herrin football

Benton quarterback Keegan Glover (13) scrambles during the first quarter of a game against Herrin this season in Herrin.

Let the hype begin.

This year’s Franklin County showdown between Benton and West Frankfort takes on a whole new meaning after both teams remained unbeaten by winning their SIRR Ohio openers on the road.

The Rangers stopped Herrin 21-3 and the Redbirds dumped Harrisburg 40-14 to make each team 4-0. They’ll meet at high noon on Saturday at Johnson Field in West Frankfort, and parking spaces around the old stadium will be at a premium for this one.

The obvious marquee matchup within the game will be the Redbirds’ offense against Benton’s defense. Led by do-it-all senior quarterback Connor Eaton, West Frankfort is scoring 35.3 points per game. The Rangers have permitted just nine points total in four games.

“Our defense doesn’t like to give up yards, let alone points,” said Benton coach Justin Groves. “We may not be big, but I think we’re quick and we fly to the football. We’re big on lining up right. When you do the little things right, you give yourself a better chance to win games.”

On the other side of the ball, the Rangers are averaging 39.3 points while the Redbirds are giving up 11 ppg. Benton struggled with Herrin’s good defensive line for three quarters before scoring a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away.

At this point, both teams are in great shape to reach the postseason, but the carrot each is chasing is a possible conference title that gives you an automatic bid. And, clearly, the more you win, the better your chances are of earning a higher seed and getting multiple home games in the playoffs.

GOING SOUTH

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A Carbondale win over Cahokia Friday night makes it a virtual certainty that the South Seven title will be decided Oct. 18 when the Terriers host Marion.

The Wildcats had perhaps the win of the night in Southern Illinois on Friday, stopping Cahokia 26-20 when Drake Gravatt capped an eight-minute drive on a 3-yard touchdown run with 8.4 seconds left.

It capped a 17-play, 83-yard drive that ate up 8:15.

“Gutsy, I mean just gutsy,” Wildcats coach Kerry Martin said. “Certainly in moments like this, your seniors have to lead. We’re getting good performances from our seniors in crunch time.”

Marion is 4-0, thanks largely to its ability to excel in pressure situations. Its last three wins have come by a total of 14 points.

FOUR DOWNS

  • It’s time to wonder if Fairfield can go an entire regular season without allowing a point. Its 42-0 blanking of C-Z-R makes it four in a row with a goose egg for the Mules’ defense. They should get a test in Week 5 from visiting Carmi-White County.
  • On the other end of the BDC, Vienna-Goreville is enduring another rough season. It’s 0-4 after a 48-0 loss Saturday to Johnston City and has been outscored 203-28. The Eagles had just 20 players dressed during the second half, too, which is an even bigger concern.
  • Sparta’s 30-19 win at Pinckneyville was its first of the season. The Bulldogs have kept plugging away despite losing star running back Tony Williams to a broken fibula at Freeburg Aug. 31. He had 93 and 88-yard touchdown runs in the first half of that game.
  • Sesser-Valier-Waltonville has a decent shot to finish the regular season with an eight-game winning streak. The Red Devils rolled Eldorado 36-16 to hand the Eagles their first loss. S-V-W should be a solid to prohibitive favorite in its last five games.

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