Benjamin Russell Clay football

Andy Anders / The Outlook Benjamin Russell quarterback Gabe Benton rears back to throw against Central of Clay County Friday, Aug. 27.

Benjamin Russell has been standing on the cusp of victory each of its past two weeks.

Facing running backs with D-1 offers in both instances, the Wildcats were within two points of evening the score with Huffman and Central of Clay County in the fourth quarter in each game, but in both cases fell short of victory.

This week marks the beginning of region play for Benjamin Russell (0-2), and squaring off against a team just one county over in Stanhope Elmore (1-1), the Wildcats will be searching for their first win of the season and with its revamped coaching staff and program.

“We’ve been really, really close, and our kids know that, and our kids are growing up as fast as they can,” Benjamin Russell head coach Aubrey Blackwell said. “I think we saw between games one and two, we had a lot of kids really grow up and learn. Our goal every week is to find a way to get better.”

Blackwell noted the Mustangs’ physical approach on both sides of the ball will test both Benjamin Russell’s offensive and defensive lines.

“They play with a lot of beef up front on both sides of the ball,” Blackwell said. “I think one of their strongest points is probably their defensive front, their defensive front is very talented.”

Running back Antonio Trone is the main feature of Stanhope’s offense, and getting through the size Stanhope presents up front should hold the key for stopping him.

Benjamin Russell defensive lineman Gavyn Vickers will spearhead the charge against that line. Still dealing with an injury to his left hand, the 2020 first-team All-Outlook selection picked up two sacks against Clay County last week.

“We don’t have anybody that plays at his level every day, every snap,” Blackwell said. “He’s really special to watch because his effort is extraordinary.” 

The Wildcats’ young offense will look to continue the success through the air it enjoyed against the Volunteers, where sophomore quarterback Gabe Benton completed 17 of 23 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns against one interception.

Ball security will be paramount in taking on Stanhope’s defense. During a slogging rain in Week 1, the Mustangs forced six turnovers en route to a 37-0 win over Selma.

Last week those turnover numbers fell off and Prattville defeated Stanhope by a 29-0 tally.

“We have six main goals each week and that’s right at the top, no turnovers,” Blackwell said. “You just can’t. On defense it’s the exact opposite, on defense it’s get the ball three times. We don’t want to give it away to them, and at the same time we want to get it on defense so it’s a big part of what we do.”

Despite it being the first regional game, Blackwell said he and his staff aren’t approaching the contest any differently from the first two.

Their goal is still steady improvement.

“Every game, we approach it with maximum effort, and our coaches work just as hard no matter what the game is,” Blackwell said. “Every game is a chance to compete and win and we don’t want to add any more pressure or make it any bigger than it is in game three.”

Friday night will also be youth football night for the Wildcats, with all of Benjamin Russell’s youth teams being recognized.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

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