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File / The Herald Joseph Benton (54) is expected to start on both sides of the ball for Edgewood.

When its regular season finale was canceled, Edgewood had to deal with going into the postseason without one more tune-up game to get it prepared. But for one Wildcat, missing out on that finale came close to costing him a moment he has looked forward to all season.

In 2010, Edgewood’s Joseph Benton lost his brother, Jacob, who died in a car accident. To honor his memory, Benton was set to wear his brother’s No. 69 jersey during the final home game of the regular season but when that game was canceled, a new plan was made.

With the Wildcats going on the road in the first round, Benton was not going to be able to wear the green home jersey he planned to wear. So when Edgewood dressed in its white jerseys, the family took Jacob’s old away jersey out of its frame so Benton could honor his brother.

“When that game got canceled, the first thing I thought of was him not getting to wear his jersey,” Edgewood coach Chad Michael said. “For him and his family to have that moment, it was so special… The thing I notice the most about this place is how much of a family atmosphere this is. The players love each other like brothers. They all wanted to rally around him for that moment.”

Benton’s other older brother, Jesse, got to do the same thing during his final home game in 2014 and both players led their teams to a victory with Jacob’s jersey on their backs. During Edgewood’s 35-34 victory over Patrician in the first round, Benton recorded a team-high 10 tackles from the defensive line.

“It was an honor to me to be able to wear it,” Benton said. “That meant a lot to me. It really motivated me.”

Benton had several big plays throughout the night, recording three tackles for a loss and helping the Wildcats limit Patrician’s run-heavy offense just enough to advance to the state semifinals.

“That’s just who he is,” Michael said. “When he’s out there, he’s usually the best player on the field. He disrupted things all game long on the defensive line.”

The biggest play of the night didn’t even go down in the box score but that did not stop Benton from bringing his best effort when the Wildcats needed it the most.

With less than two minutes on the clock, Patrician scored to cut Edgewood’s lead to a single point and the hosts lined up for a two-point conversion for the win. However, Benton got in the way, making the tackle and sealing the victory.

“Before the ball was snapped, I was thinking it was going to the outside,” Benton said. “But they came up the middle into my gap. If everyone else wasn’t doing their jobs, I wouldn’t have been there to make the play.”

Benton starts at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball but he admitted it wasn’t the best game for the offensive line so they were more motivated to make up the ground on defense. Patrician’s wing-T offense provided plenty of tests to the Wildcats but Benton and his linemen teammates stepped up to the challenge.

“You will win or lose ballgames with the offensive and defensive line, especially in the playoffs,” Michael said. “We really harped on that last week. They like the pressure of that and they have done a great job of just dominating the line of scrimmage.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.