Benton, Parkwood Defense Shine In 26-23 Win Over Forest Hills

Parkwood running back J.J. Benton scored two touchdowns in the win against Forest Hills (Photo by Rick Becker)

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Parkwood 26, Forest Hills 23

By the Numbers

2 Parkwood quarterback Eli Ackerman didn’t play the first two offensive series of the game.

5 The two teams missed a combined five PAT attempts – three by Forest Hills and two by Parkwood.

80 Parkwood’s J.J. Benton had an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

133 Parkwood had 133 yards rushing in the game.

MARSHVILLE — The Parkwood High defense stood tall when it mattered most Friday night.

Wyne McGriff recovered a Forest Hills fumble at the Parkwood one with 1 minute, 45 seconds left in the game and the Rebels were then able to run out the clock to post a 26-23 victory over the Yellow Jackets in a nonconference football game.

Parkwood’s defense also stopped Forest Hills on downs at their own 20 with 7:29 left in the game.

Parkwood’s late defensive stand overshadowed an exceptional offensive performance by senior running back J.J. Benton. Benton rushed 20 times for 111 yards and one touchdown and the senior also returned a Forest Hills kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown that allowed Parkwood to cut the Forest Hills lead at halftime to 11-7.

“Benton is a special running back,” said Parkwood head coach Tim Speakman “That young man was hit hard and he spun off to get us yards when we needed to get them. That kid is a special kid.”

Parkwood quarterback Eli Ackerman also turned in a solid performance as the senior was 8-of-14 passing for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

“(Eli) was good,” Speakman said. “He got hit hard a few times during the game but he persevered through it.”

Trailing 26-23, Forest Hills took possession at the Parkwood 36 with 4:17 left in the game and the Yellow Jackets used a 27-yard pass from quarterback Marion Holmes to Jaquan Williams on fourth-and-5 to set up shop at the Parkwood four.

But the Parkwood defense stripped the ball from Jaleel McLaughlin on fourth-and-goal at the one and McGriff recovered at the one to seal the victory for the Rebels (2-0). McLaughlin rushed for 194 yards on 25 carries.

“Our defense came up big right there at the end,” Speakman said. “Our defense was tired, but they persevered through it. At the end of the game they stuck in there and made a big play for us to win the game. Our defense came up big at the end of the game.”

Forest Hills took a 11-0 lead late in the first half when Tyler Mills connected on a 25-yard field 17 seconds before halftime.

But Benton responded with a thrilling 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that cut the Forest Hills lead to 11-7 on the final play of the first half. Benton also had an eight-yard touchdown run that gave the Rebels a 20-17 lead late in the third period.

Speakman said Benton’s touchdown return gave the Rebels some momentum going into the halftime locker room.

“That was huge,” Speakman said. “I told them in the huddle right before that and said, ‘Don’t even worry about the score right now. You make a big play right here.’ There were two specific blocks that we had to get. Sure enough, they executed and the rest is history.”

Tight Ship

Ackerman didn’t play the first two series of the game after being late for a meeting during preparation last week for the game.

“He was three minutes late for a meeting,” Speakman said. “We run a tight ship and they have to understand that they have to be accountable for their actions. He arrived three minutes late to a meeting and therefore he was not going to start.”

Scoring Summary

Parkwood 0 7 13 6 26

Forest Hills 6 5 12 0 23

First Quarter

FH — McLaughlin 3 run (PAT failed), 6:52

Second Quarter

FH — Safety, 1:15

FH — Mills 25 field goal, 17.7

PW — Benton 80 kickoff return (Shook PAT), 0:00

Third Quarter

PW — Cain 14 pass from Ackerman (PAT failed), 8:05

FH — Davis 49 run (PAT failed), 6:26

PW — Benton 8 run (Shook PAT), 1:27

FH — McLaughlin 5 run (PAT failed), :41

Fourth Quarter

PW — Long 10 pass from Ackerman (PAT failed), 11:08

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Paul Nielsen
Nielsen was a sports writer for what is now the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for nearly 32 years before moving to North Carolina in February 2016. At the Democrat-Gazette, Nielsen's primary responsibility was beat coverage for Rogers High School. Rogers is a Class 7A school located in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen, a University of Arkansas graduate, covered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals Minor League Baseball team from 2008-2015. The Naturals are the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Nielsen has experience covering University of Arkansas athletics, including NCAA Tournament basketball games and several football bowl games. He also covered amateur and professional golf tournaments in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen lives in Matthews with his wife, Susan. He can be reached at