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After both program’s first two weeks of the 2021 season, it seemed unlikely this year’s edition of the crosstown showdown between Lafayette and Benton would live up to years prior.

The first 24 minutes of action were everything a rivalry is known to be — a hard-fought matchup that led to a 14-14 tie at halftime.

The final 24 minutes were everything the Fighting Irish wanted them to be — and everything the Cardinals were hoping to avoid — as Lafayette captured a 28-14 win Friday night at Sparks Field.

“It was stressful,” Lafayette first-year coach Ryan Shroyer said in the aftermath of the 14-point win. “I knew it was going to be tight. I knew (Benton) was going to give it everything they had. … Hats off to them. They fought. They fought. They fought. It was intense, but I expected it to be. I didn’t expect anything else from a Benton-Lafayette game.”

In the Fighting Irish’s Week 2 win over Atchison, senior quarterback Jaron Saunders broke the MSHSAA record with 698 yards passing. Week 3 started off as a different story for Saunders, though, as Lafayette’s first drive of the game ended when he threw an interception to Benton sophomore linebacker Bryson Brown.

And it was to Lafayette’s surprise that winless Benton (0-3) got on the board first, when junior running back Bishop Rush found the end zone from 5 yards out to give the Cardinals a 6-0 lead with 7 minutes and 13 seconds left in the first quarter.

“It was a lot of adversity,” Saunders said of the early deficit.

Benton’s initial score didn’t matter to the Irish (3-0), and Saunders tallied his first touchdown of the night on the ensuing drive by trucking a defender at the goal line to give Lafayette a 7-6 lead.

It was Rush, though, who kept Benton in the game. The junior scored Benton’s second, and eventually last, touchdown on a 1-yard run to give the Cardinals their final lead of the game at the beginning of the second quarter.

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