Senior has 3 on ‘D’ in his career, most in 35 years for Indians
By CHRIS HOBBS
HICKORY – St. Stephens High’s Chance Benfield had a Friday night he won’t soon forget – scoring twice on defense — and he loved the impact it had as the Indians cruised past visiting Bunker Hill 44-6 for their first football win of the season.
Benfield returned a fumble 46 yards for an opening score and helped extend the Indians’ lead to 20-6 in the final 12 seconds of the first quarter when he recovered a block punt in the end zone.
That – plus his 45-yard interception return for a TD last season — moved Benfield to the top of the do-it-with-D players with three defensive TDs over the past 35 seasons at St. Stephens. His pick-6 last year against South Caldwell came in a victory at St. Stephens.
“We set the tone early on defense,” said Benfield, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior outside linebacker. “We played great team defense. All in all, we laid our hearts out there.”
St. Stephens (1-1) limited the Bears (0-2) to 96 rushing yards on 37 carries and 76 of those yards came on Bunker Hill’s final possession.
The Bears, now outscored 100-6 in two games, threw for 25 yards and had 104 yards, led by backup quarterback Hector Stamey’s 61 yards rushing on eight carries.
The Indians gained 248 yards rushing –5.2 yards per carry – and found themselves throwing only seven times for 50 yards. Quarterback Connor Williams had thrown for 236 yards and three scores the week before in a season-opening 42-28 loss at Bandys.
On Friday night, with the defense providing points early, the Indians got comfortable.
“We just kind of went with what’s open and rolled with it,” said Benfield. (Having a lead) opens it up for everybody.”
Five Indians had at least 33 rushing yards, topped by 74 on 13 carries by De’uante Henry – all in the second half – and the top returning rusher from last season, Xavian King, had nine rushes for 59 yards before missing the second half with an injury.
King had the only St. Stephens first-quarter score on offense, a 2-yard run that came after Benfield’s fumble return score and a 38-yard interception return by the Bears’ Adrian Powell that tied it at 6.
The opening score came on the seventh play of the game with the Bears facing third-and-9 at the Indians’ 41. Quarterback Desmond Anderson (23 carries for 34 yards) coughed the ball up after losing 13 yards and Benfield scooped it and went 46 yards for a TD.
One play after a St. Stephens punt, Williams threw across the middle and Powell intercepted at the St. Stephens 38 and scored.
King capped an 80-yard drive by scoring on fourth-and-goal from the 2 to push the St. Stephens lead to 12-6.
After being pinned at their 4, the Bears punted from the end zone and Christian Impagliazzo blocked it and Benfield recovered for a TD. When Williams threw to King on the two-point conversion, the Indians led 20-6.
Three Indians scored their first points of the season in the second half, Nathaniel Vera on a 7-yard run, Henry on a 15-yard run and Desean Millsaps on a 15-yard pass from Williams.
Early on, Benfield became the second St. Stephens player in two seasons with two defensive scores. A year ago, Ian Walker had fumble returns of 10 and 90 yards in a 35-7 win at Bunker Hill.
Benfield leads a short list of Indians with two or more defensive TDs in a year since 1985 –Walker, David Barnes (2002) and Mike Pope (1985) are the others – and Shinar Young had one in 2005 and one in 2006.
“It’s amazing,” Benfield of providing points by defense. “It felt so good… I never thought I’d score two touchdowns that quickly. It’s just a giant reliever. It takes the pressure off everybody.”
St. Stephens is idle Friday and gets a visit from Maiden on Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Maiden has won all 16 of its games at St. Stephens since 1982.
Bunker Hill faces Maiden on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Maiden and has lost 28 straight to the Blue Devils since beating them 24-8 at Maiden in 1989.
Bunker Hill still leads in games played since 1980 in the series, 19-18-1 … St. Stephens now has five straight wins over the Bears and 11 in their last 15 battles … The Indians home win streak is at five games … Bunker Hill is 6-11-1 at St. Stephens since the 1982 season, last winning there in 2013… Indians head coach Wayne Hicks picked up his 20th win (20-39). He’s in his seventh season there…The Bears are 4-42 since 2013 with wins over Fred T. Foard, West Iredell, Bandys and East Burke.
Bunker Hill 6 0 0 0—6
St. Stephens 20 14 10 0—44
SS—Chance Benfield 46 fumble return (kick failed), 8:45
BH—Adrian Powell 38 interception return (kick failed), 7:14
SS—Xavian King 2 run (pass failed), 2:21
SS—Benfield blocked punt return in end zone (King pass from Connor Williams), 11.2
SS—Nathaniel Vera 7 run (Luis Ugaldey kick), 6:42
SS—Desean Millsaps 15 pass from Williams (Ugaldey kick), 1:16
SS—FG Ugaldey 28, 7:01
SS—De’unate Henry 15 run (Ugaldey kick), 3:55
First downs 9 17
Rush-Yards 37-96 47-248
Passing 4-12-0 4-7-1
Passing yards 25 50
Total offense 121 298
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-58 5-50
BH Hector Stamey 8-61, Desmond Anderson 23-34, Powell 5-8, Parker Garrison 1-minus 7; SS: Blake Baker 8-33, Vera 9-43, King 9-59, Ivan Vergel 6-35, Henry 13-74, Matthew Hancock 1-2, Ray Beatty 1-7.
BH: Stamey 0-1-0 0, Anderson 4-11-0 25; SS: Williams 4-7-1 50.
BH: Clayton Dobbins 1-5, Powell 2-17, Kaliq Ramseur 1-2; SS: Zach Lee 1-18, Millsaps 2-16, Benfield 1-16.