RECRUITING: Benton putting up big numbers

Bastrop wide receiver DeAngelo Benton's accomplishments on the football field over the last three years have been well-chronicled.

In fact, D-Lo has pretty much become a household name among local football fans.


Benton's reputation is well-deserved.

A three-year starter, the 6-3, 195-pound senior can light up the room with his smile and click the scoreboard with his hands and feet. He earned All-District 1-4A honors as a sophomore before emerging as one of the top receivers in the state as a junior when he caught 41 passes for 805 yards and 11 touchdowns.


Saving his best game for the big stage, Benton hauled in five passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in helping the Rams to a 41-12 victory over Breaux Bridge in the state finals.


In addition, he was a second-team All-District basketball selection last season.


Attracting the attention of national recruiters, Benton committed to LSU over the summer.


Benton hasn't let up as a senior, producing 33 receptions for 863 yards and 14 TDs – team highs in all three categories.


"I feel like I'm playing harder this year than I did last year," Benton said. "That's something I needed to do to make myself better."


Benton, however, is proudest of his improvement in the classroom. By his own admission, he did not take his academic work as seriously as he should have.


"My grades are coming along good," Benton said. "That's my biggest improvement. I'm taking school seriously now. I know I have a big opportunity, and I don't want to mess it up."


Benton certainly hasn't been messing up on the field. Exploiting single coverage, he caught three passes for 144 yards and a pair of scores in the Rams' 49-7 regional playoff victory over Zachary last week.


Benton doesn't expect to have such a luxury when the Rams visit District 2-4A rival Ouachita Friday night in the quarterfinals. In fact, Benton was held to just one catch for 14 yards in the first meeting with the Lions three weeks ago.


"I've seen a lot of man coverage and cover three the last two weeks," Benton said. "I probably won't see too much of that this week. I have to give it to Ouachita, they're smart."


It is difficult for opposing defenses to key in on Benton when he is surrounded by so many playmakers.


"We have so many weapons with so many people capable of making a big play," Benton said. "Defenses can't key on just one man in our offense and expect to win."


Although the Rams are averaging 41.7 points per game, Benton sees room for improvement.


"I don't think we have played as well as we can play yet," Benton said. "We need to cut down on turnovers and the mental mistakes we've been making."


Benton has four 100-yard receiving games to his credit this season, including a five-catch, 180-yard, three-touchdown effort vs. West Ouachita.


When former Delta offensive coordinator Sonny Nason returned to Bastrop as receivers coach, he knew he had a special player to work with.


"It's been an honor to coach D-Lo," said Nason, who coached the Rams' baseball team during his first stint at the school. "Coaching D-Lo is kind of like coaching Wade Robinson, John Brandon and all those guys in baseball when I first got here. I'd make out the lineup and stay out of the way. With D-Lo, you make sure he knows what to do and step out of the way."


Work habits are never a concern with Benton.


"He's a hard worker, and it shows up on the field on Friday night because he makes plays," Nason said.


Benton doesn't fit the mold of the stereotypical receiver who only goes all-out when he expects the ball to be thrown his way. It isn't unusual to see Benton drive a cornerback out of bounds since he is one of the team's better blockers.


"I like to block and open up holes for the running backs and the other receivers," Benton said. "I like to see my teammates make big plays. It's not all about me scoring touchdowns or making big plays. It's about the people around you – the people who are going to be there whenever you need them."


With school out for the Thanksgiving holidays, the Rams are able to concentrate on football this week. Benton sounded like he actually missed going to class before practice.


"It's kind of hard because it's a break from the routine," Benton said. "When you've been to school all day, you've had a chance to get focused by the time you get to practice."


Make no mistake, though, there is no other way Benton would rather spend his holidays than practicing football.


"It feels good to be practicing, knowing there is still a chance to win the state championship," Benton said.


Benton's plans for the holiday are simple: "I'm just going to eat as much as I can Thursday and try to get past the third round of the playoffs Friday night," he said.

While acknowledging the pressure of the playoffs, Benton says this is the most exciting time of the season.


"There is a lot of pressure because you either win or go home," Benton said. "But at the same time, it's a lot of fun."


Throughout his career, Benton's leaping catches have made the Rams' offense fun to watch.


Note: The Rams beat Ouachita 35-21 last weekend and will face Minden in the semifinals for a return trip to the state championship game.

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