Benson head coach Chris Determan has always had great rushing attacks throughout his two decades coaching the Bobcats, but what senior Devin Bowling did Friday night shines brighter than every other performance.
Bowling had a historic night for No. 3 Benson with a school-record 419 rushing yards along with five touchdowns on the ground in the 48-6 win over visiting No. 11 St. Johns in a 2A quarterfinal game.
He had 267 rushing yards by halftime.
Benson punched its ticket back to the 2A state semifinals with the dominating win. The Bobcats (9-2) made it to the 2A title game last season, ultimately losing to Eloy Santa Cruz Valley, despite not having any seniors on the roster.
One of those juniors at the time was Bowling, who suffered a leg injury in the championship game and could not play in the second half. Santa Cruz led 7-0 at halftime and won that game 42-7.
“Tonight, I thought he really ran well,” Determan said after Bowling’s performance Friday. “He finished runs when he wanted to, ran out of bounds when he wanted to … he just did a lot of things, that made him versatile tonight, I was really proud of him.”
St Johns coach Mike Morgan started aggressive, going for it on 4th down and less than 3 yards on the first drive of the game and converting. The Redskins’ sideline seemed to gain more and more momentum and belief they could hang in the game as the drive went on.
Benson would eventually get a sack on a third down play that saw St Johns quarterback James Thomas have tons of time but his receivers could not get open. They would go for it on 4th and long and once again get sacked, setting Benson up nicely at midfield.
For a team that put up 48 points for the game, Benson struggled a bit to start, only getting seven points in the first quarter thanks to a Jace Barney 1-yard run on their first drive of the game.
Benson would fumble on their ensuing possession, setting up St Johns nicely inside Bobcat territory, but the Bobcats’ defense came up big and got off the field once again on fourth down.
Bowling would then score the first of his five touchdowns on the night, his first one coming on a 55-yarder to put the Bobcats up 14-0.
“We just go with the flow,” Bowling said when asked about whether or not running the ball was an emphasis tonight. “If someone’s number is working that game, we go with them all game.”
Bowling’s number was certainly working. He would then score on a 30-yard run to put the Bobcats up 20-0 after a failed point-after attempt.
With 37 seconds left in the half, St Johns was attempting to mount some offense to take into the locker room at halftime. They were driving in Benson territory until Jimmy Lerblance intercepted a pass.
After another huge run, Benson was set up once again inside the St Johns 20-yard line. They turned to Bowling once again, and he put the Bobcats on the board before half. A successful two-point conversion by quarterback Brok Determan on a bootleg gave Benson a 28-0 lead at the half.
“We have a guy who rushes for 419, somebody is getting it done upfront, not taking anything away from his (Bowling) running ability, because he is a great running back,” Brok Determan said. “We got (linemen) coming out, two guys out in front. It is a lot more fun to run.”
His dad added, “It’s great to see our backs really stepping in and get ready to go, (Bowling’s) running the ball really well, reading blocks really well, exploding when he needs to and making the cut back when he needs to. It was a lot of fun to watch him tonight.”
Benson opened the third quarter with the ball and a chance to put the game away early, and the Bobcats went to their passing game.
After a spectacular one-handed catch by Dalton Crockett that drew a pass interference call as well, the younger Determan found Lerblance on a quick slant pass to make it 35-0.
From there, Benson would hand the ball to Bowling with the clock running for the rest of the game.
He accounted for two more rushing touchdowns, including a 75-yard sprint close to the Benson sideline that would put him in the record books.
It was only fitting that his final game as a Bobcat at home would be the night he broke the record.
“It felt really good to break the record the last time playing on this field, all my guys just celebrating with me,” Bowling said.
Benson (10-2) will face No. 2 Arizona Lutheran Academy (12-1) next Saturday at 2 p.m. at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix. On the other side of the bracket, No. 1 Parker (11-0) will go against No. 4 Morenci (10-2).
“Every game is a new game,” Chris Determan said when talking about next week. “On any given Friday or Saturday, anybody can beat anybody. It just matters who shows up. If we come out, play well, do what we are supposed to do, heck yeah, we can make a run.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Harrison Moreno is a southern Arizona native who has watched Wildcat athletics since he was young kid. He recently is a graduate of The University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, with a focus in broadcast and audio journalism.