Benton quarterback Grant Gordon rushed for one touchdown and threw for another, the defense was responsible for a safety, and the Rangers got their first victory of the 2018 football season here Friday with a 14-0 shutout over Massac County.
It was also the first victory for first-year coach Justin Groves, who was presented with a game ball during the postgame celebration.
"The first one is always the hardest, I guess," Groves said. "I just told them they don't make anything easy, but I'll take it. It's bad to be in that position when you're trying to scrap out a win for your season, but I'll take one anyway I can get it."
Benton is now 1-6 overall and 1-3 in the conference. Massac County dropped to 0-7 and remained winless in the conference.
Starting near midfield on its second possession of the opening quarter, the Rangers drove downfield in 11 plays for their first score. Facing a fourth-and-two from the 8-yardline, the Rangers were penalized for motion, moving the ball back to the 13.
That's when Gordon lofted a high pass into the right corner of the endzone and into the hands of sophomore Peyton Bayless, who made the catch over a defender on the final play of the quarter. The drive consumed over 6 ½ minutes on the game clock.
Neither team could take advantage of turnovers in the second quarter -- Massac turned the ball over on a fumble and the Patriots intercepted a Gordon pass in the final minute.
Benton received the first half kickoff and got to the 43 before giving the ball up on downs. Chance Devore's punt pinned Massac County down to the 2. On the first play, Massac's Blake Baird was tackled in the endzone for a safety. With the free kick from the 20, the Rangers got good field possession. However, two long penalties -- an illegal receiver downfield and offensive pass interference -- ended another offensive threat.
The Rangers got the pigskin back in the final minute of the third quarter and held it for about five minutes in the fourth quarter, eventually getting their second offensive score on a Gordon 1-yard run.
Gordon rushed for 40 yards on 15 carries and Peyton Swigonski rushed at times for 58 yards. Benton finished with 108 rushing yards. Gordon was 4-of-12 through the air for 32 yards with one interception.
"He has gotten a lot better. He's still got a lot of growing to do and he's got some more skills than just playing quarterback. He got on defense a little bit and helped us. We're going to do more with him in the future. I don't know about this year but we've got some plans for him," Groves said.
Defensively, the Rangers limited Massac County to 19 rushing yards, and of the 34 rushes, 13 were for minus yardage.
Special teams, including the priceless toe of punter Chance Devore, played a major role in the victory.
"We played a little better on special teams. We had a couple of miscues on our extra points still and that's part of still having some young kids out there and I think they get nervous at times," Groves said. "We fixed some stuff that we knew we had to fix, and hopefully, going forward those won't be as big of a concern for us."
Benton returns home to close out its season the next two weeks. Once-beaten Murphysboro will visit Tabor Field on Friday. The Red Devils scored 60 points last week in a rout over Harrisburg.