Hard-Hitting Hornet

Junior safety Dijon Benton opened plenty of eyes with his play as a sophomore and has continued to do so this season for the No. 1 Hornets.

It's not often that one of your best players also has the name as your biggest rival.

But that's the case for No. 1 Bryant (5-0-1), who had a budding junior star in safety Dijon Benton (6-1, 175, 4.5).

Benton had several big plays – including a pass break up in the end zone – last Friday night as his Hornets beat Russellville 10-7 on Austin Bradley's last-second 32-yard field goal.

"It was a great win for us, just a great win," Benton said. "The defense played real well and we were on the field a lot. We just had to suck it up and play hard and we knew our offense would eventually march it down the field and that's exactly what they did."

Benton and his Bryant defenders stopped Russellville's final drive, giving the ball to the offense with just over two minutes left and one last chance to cash in.

"I knew we were going to make it on that last drive and I didn't care how much time was left on the clock," Benton said. "I knew we were going to get it done."

Bryant is back into action tonight at Conway.

Benton, one of the natural state's top junior prospects, has been to the last two Arkansas games on unofficial visits.

"I enjoyed it," Benton said. "I really like the Razorbacks. "Arkansas has a real nice program and they have shown great love for me."

Bryant head coach Paul Calley says there are plenty of reasons to like Benton – the player that is.

"His biggest strengths are his work ethic and his knowledge of the game," Calley said. "He plays and he works so hard."

He hasn't had the year that he did last year because we are asking him to do so much more," Calley said of playing offense and defense. "Tonight he came through in a big way. I thought he had his best game."

Calley says that Benton reminds him of a current Razorback linebacker.

"He is so physical and a great tackler," Calley said. "He plays in the secondary for us, but I think he will be an outside linebacker in college. He reminds me a lot of Freddie Fairchild in the way he moves and hits."

Benton sizes up his strengths and weaknesses this way.

"I'm still working on getting better at backpedaling," Benton said. "I feel really good about how I catch the ball and my hitting."

Benton's personal trainer is former Razorback wideout J.J. Meadors, whose defining moment in his college career was a controversial, game-winning catch at Alabama on a low throw.

"I train with him and he's been great for me," Benton said. I get on him about whether he caught it or not. He says yes."

Bryant, whose only blemish is 21-21 tie with Fort Smith Southside, leads the 7A-Central with a 3-0 mark.

"It's been a great year so far, number one in the state and number one in the conference," Benton said. "But that really doesn't mean a lot because there is a lot of the season left to play. We have got to play every play hard every down."

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