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Benton hopes to go distance in 2023 | Preps on 11

Benton returns six offensive and defensive starters, including quarterback Cline Hooten and running back Braylen Russell, who is committed to Arkansas.

BENTON, Ark. — Benton has put together two consecutive nine-win seasons and is looking to go even further in 2023.

"We've had some really good competitive practices, physical, and we have had a couple of injuries," Benton head coach Brad Harris said. "It's going to slow us a little bit early in the year, but we've gotten after each other, and we're ready to play somebody else and gameplan for somebody else."

Benton returns six offensive and defensive starters from a team that finished 9-3 last year. Quarterback Cline Hooten is back for the Panthers after completing 66% of his passes for over 1,200 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Running back Braylen Russell is also returning to solidify Benton's rushing attack. The Arkansas commit and four-star recruit ran nearly 1,700 yards despite suffering a foot injury in 2022.

"We're a better offensive line, Russell said. "We had two sophomores last year who... were good, but they got better as the year went on. I think we're better than last year."

Defensively, the Panthers expect to have a strong run defense.

"We're going to be good against the run," Harris said. "We're going to slow people's run game down."

The Panthers face a tough test in their season opener as they kick things off against defending Class 7A state champion Bryant in the Salt Bowl.

"We should be able to go out and compete this year and get the job done," Russell said. "Follow our rules, stick to the game plan and finish everything. Last year, we played well in the first quarter, and then we let things slip out of our hands. We're looking to play all four quarters this year."

Benton battles Bryant on Aug. 26 at War Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Central.

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