Lafayette holds off Benton in St. Joe battle

By Sam Robinson St. Joseph News-Press
Posted: September 5, 2014 - 10:58 PM

The best Benton performance in years needed three more yards to move Friday night’s rivalry battle further into the pantheon of St. Joseph matchups.

Lafayette could not stave off its previously downtrodden city counterpart’s effort and faced the prospect of a potential overtime with a team it entered having won six straight against.

Cardinals quarterback Dominic Hill’s 2-yard touchdown run pulled Benton to within two with less than 4 minutes to play, but for the second time in the Week 3 clash, a crucial conversion sputtered. Hill’s lob to Cooper Burton fell incomplete, and Lafayette survived in a 29-27 escape at Alumni Stadium.

“When they dropped it, it was a big lift off my shoulders. I thought he was gonna catch it,” said Lafayette running back/cornerback Rowdy Wilkinson, who scored two second-half touchdowns — including what turned out to be the game-winner. “... We knew they were gonna fight their hearts out. We went back and forth, touchdown after touchdown.”

The victory represents the seventh straight for Lafayette (2-1, 1-0 Midland Empire Conference) in this series, but it also illustrated a potentially rejuvenated Benton squad (1-2, 0-1) at their highest level since the program’s fortunes took a wrong turn in 2012.

Following Hill’s touchdown with 3 minutes, 53 seconds remaining, Lafayette coach Paul Woolard alerted safety Terry Ford to a potential strike to Burton, and the 6-foot-1 Irish senior’s man coverage was enough to prevent a game-tying connection across the middle in a game where the Cardinals made just about every other strike necessary to scare their nemeses.

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