The Jacksonville Red Devils came up big early, but short late in a 31-21 loss to the Benton Panthers.

Big plays were the order of the day for both teams. Jacksonville struck first with a quick 55-yard drive ending with Reggie Barnes hitting Avery Wells for a 13-yard completion down to the three, setting up a short touchdown run by Lamont Gause. Benton answered quickly with a 78-yard touchdown pass. The Red Devil offense stayed hot by marching 60 yards for another score. Gause caught the first pass of the drive for 28 yards, and ended the drive with a nine-yard touchdown reception out of the backfield.

Benton scored late in the first half as Jacksonville went into halftime leading 21-14. Barnes was 15 of 20 for 174 yards in the first half, but was held in check the second half as Benton came storming back.

The Panthers scored midway through the third quarter after a lengthy drive, but missed the extra point as Jacksonville still led 21-20.

That lead wouldn’t last much longer however, as Benton got the ball back and scored in just over a minute thanks to a 55-yard pass. The two-point conversion was successful as the Panthers took a 28-21 lead into the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville shot themselves in the foot in the fourth, with drives stalling thanks to holding and illegal block penalties. The Devil defense kept the Panthers out of the end zone, but a field goal with just over four minutes left to play gave Benton a two-score lead at 31-21.

Barnes and Robert Harris led the Devils on a quick drive, trying to get back in the game. After driving down inside the 10-yard-line, a Benton defender stepped in front of an end zone pass for an interception that sealed the deal for the Devils. Barnes finished 20 of 42 for 246 yards. Harris caught seven passes for 113 yards.

Jacksonville will face their final warm-up for conference action Friday when they take on the Maumelle Hornets.