MIDDLETOWN — A lot of football plays have long, confusing names, but at St. Elizabeth, the verbiage is likely much simpler. As in, “Give the ball to No. 3.”
Perhaps not that simple, but why complicate things when you have the dangerous junior in the backfield? Benson scorched St. Andrew’s for eight — eight! — touchdowns on Oct. 23 as the Vikings remained undefeated with a 62-28 victory over the Saints.
Benson, of course, does not act alone, and his first score was set up by a Chris Caracter interception on St. Andrew’s opening possession. Heavy pressure on Saints quarterback Michael Lilley resulted in a hurried throw, and Caracter returned the ball to the St. Andrew’s 11. From there, as has happened many times this seaon, St. Elizabeth needed just one play to reach the end zone, and that was on an 11-yard Benson run that ended with the back leaping over a defender and crashing to the ground on his back side. The point after was blocked, and the Vikings had a 6-0 lead 92 seconds into the contest.
The Vikings held St. Andrew’s to a three and out, and after a punt St. Elizabeth had the ball at its own 39. On first down, Benson took a pitch and went down the left sideline for a 61-yard score. There was 8:43 left in the quarter.
The Saints got on the scoreboard with a 26-yard field goal, and the first quarter ended with the Vikings up by 10 and driving, having taken over after a punt at their own 20 with two minutes left in the first. On the second play of the drive, St. E quarterback Brett Smick hit Caracter that went for 27 yards and a first down at the Saints’ 32. Benson gained three yards on first down, then he covered the other 29 for his third touchdown on second down on the first play of the second quarter. It was 20-3.
Caracter’s second interception set the Vikings up on their own 45, and Benson made it another one-play drive. He scampered 55 yards virtually untouched with 11:17 on the clock.
The Saints struck after the kickoff. Lilley connected with Griffin Patterson from 41 yards to complete a four-play, 57-yard drive to make the score 27-9. The Vikings couldn’t handle the kickoff cleanly, an they ended up with the ball at their own nine. Smick handed it to Benson, and a dozen or so seconds later, he was entering the end zone 91 yards away with his fourth score.
Later in the second, a punt block gave the Saints the ball at the Vikings’ 18. On first down, Lilley hit Brandon Graves with a fade pass for a touchdown. Again, the two-point conversion was no good, making the score 34-15. But the first-half scoring was not over.
The Saints’ defense held, and their offense regained possession at their 32 with 2:48 to go in the half. On second and 10, Lilley fired a jump ball toward the middle of the field, and Patterson outjumped a Vikings defender for the ball and scampered into the end zone for a 68-yard TD. After the missed conversion, the Vikings led, 34-21. The drive took just 22 seconds off the clock.
Again taking possession at their 20, St. Elizabeth once more turned to Benson. He covered all 80 yards on four plays, all first downs, one on a screen pass and the other on rushes. The touchdown was one yard. Another missed point after resulted in a 40-21 halftime score.
Benson added two more touchdowns in the third quarter, his seventh and eighth of the day. He returned to second-half kickoff for a touchdown, but a holding penalty brought the ball back to the Vikings’ 30. Benson took the first play to the Saints’ 49, and the next play covered the rest.
Before Benson scored for the final time, the teams traded scores. Nicholas Osbourne of St. Andrew’s ran 51 yards on an option play, and St. Elizabeth’s Mikey Downes went off left tackle for a 15-yard score with 4:34 to go in the third.
Benson’s final touchdown was set up by an Eric O’Neill interception that gave the Vikings possession at the Saints’ 15. Benson went to his specialty, the one-play drive, scoring on first down. Downes added the final two-point conversion.
The Vikings improved to 7-0 and will take on Wilmington Charter next Friday at 7 p.m. The Saints (5-2) visit the Maryland School for the Deaf on Saturday at 2 p.m.
All photos by Mike Lang.