Photos by Jon Staton
CABOT — Bryant Hornets freshman coach Kenny Horn knows from lots of experience, you can’t fall behind a team from Cabot. If you do, the Panthers will play keep-away, grind out first downs, eat the clock, and leave you fretting that you may never get the ball again.
You need a lead to keep the pressure on them and, if you can get two scores up, you make it tough on them.
Well, on Thursday night, Horn’s freshman Hornets not only gained the upper hand with an early touchdown, they piled up a 27-0 lead in the first half on the way to a 35-8 victory over the Cabot White Panthers of South Junior High.
It was a win that improved the Hornets to 8-0 this season, 7-0 in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference. And it set up a pair of showdowns to finish off the season. Going into Thursday, their next two opponents had one loss between them. Conway White was 5-1 going into a game at North Little Rock while Benton was, like the Hornets, 6-0 in the league going into a trip to winless Russellville.
Bryant visits Conway White next Thursday before closing out the season at home against the rival Panthers on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Those teams are what stand between the Hornets and an unbeaten season, which would be a first for a Bryant freshman team since 2011.
Fully aware that the Panthers would be keying on standout running back Ahmad Adams, the Hornets came out throwing Thursday night, opening with a 21-yard completion from Jake Meaders to Gavin Wells.
Meaders would complete 9 of 14 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the contest. Wells was on the receiving end of five of those throws for 44 yards. Catrell Wallace caught four including both touchdown tosses.
And Adams wound up getting his too. After a fly sweep to Wells gained 20 yards, Adams got his first chance and took full advantage, slicing through the Cabot defense and dashing 46 yards for a touchdown. Grayson Scoles added an extra point and it was 7-0.
Adams would finish with 118 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.
Cabot South’s offense took the field with a first down at its 27. But, on the first play, quarterback Jake Moudy didn’t secure the ball. It came loose and Bryant’s Trevon Herron scooped and scored.
A try for two failed, leaving it 13-0 less than two minutes into the game.
When the Panthers were able to run a full series, it went nowhere. Linebacker Austin Bailey made a stop for no gain on second down and, on third, Moudy was stopped a yard into his run by William Boyd.
A short punt gave Bryant a short field. From the Cabot South 46, Adams contributed runs of 11 and 12 yards right away. Meaders found Wallace for 6 yards then Adams, behind a strong effort from the offensive line, covered the final 17 yards in three carries.
His run on the two-point conversion made it 21-0 with 1:42 still to play in the first quarter.
Cabot South picked up its initial first down on the next possession behind runs from Hunter Horka and Tanner Wilson. On the next play, however, Horka fumbled and Darrick Rose claimed the ball for the Hornets at the Cabot 41.
Bryant tried to strike quickly. Meaders threw deep towards Wells who had gotten behind the secondary. The closest Panther defender interfered, costing his team 15 yards but, perhaps, saving a touchdown.
Moments later, Meaders hit Wells for 12 yards to the 12 to convert a third-down. A holding penalty, however, pushed the Hornets back. On a fourth-and-11 at the 13, Meaders found Wallace in the back of the end zone. The big receiver went up for the ball and came down with a toe-tap for the TD.
It was 27-0 with 4:02 left in the half.
Cabot South used four plays to get a first down then benefitted from a pass interference penalty against the Hornets. A play later, Moudy threw deep down the right side where Kyle McIntire was open after Rose had slipped down. The 31-yard strike would be the Panthers’ lone touchdown.
And despite the fact his team still trailed 27-6, McIntire hot-dogged it into the end zone and was cited for taunting, a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff.
Nonetheless, Horka ran in the conversion to make it 27-8.
And despite kicking from his own 25 after the mark-off, the Panthers’ strong-legged kicker Rhett Thurman got the ball into the end zone on the bounce for a touchback.
The Panthers got the ball to start the second half. They pounded out a first down and had a second-and-7 at their 42 when Christian Cain and Tanner Wilson stopped an inside reverse to McIntire for a loss. Cabot couldn’t overcome that and wound up setting up to punt. But punter Reid Blackwell fumbled the deep snap. He recovered the ball and tried to kick it but it barely traveled 10 yards. Wilson fell on the ball at the Cabot 33.
The Hornets quickly took advantage. Meaders found Wallace for 12 yards to converted a third down. On back-to-back passes, Wells got 3 yards on a bubble screen. On the second, however, a holding penalty on a block downfield pushed Bryant back to the 21.
Meaders went to Wallace again who made a splendid leaping catch in the end zone over Moudy who was trying to cover him. Adams ran in the conversion and the final score was on the board with 3:03 still to play in the third quarter.
Bailey recovered a fumble on the Panthers’ next snap but, a play later, a long pass by Meaders was picked off by Carson Attaway.
From their own 15, the Panthers methodically marched to the Bryant 36. There, facing a fourth-and-1, Bailey snuffed out their final chance with a big hit for a loss on Austin Scritchfield.
Behind the running of Dalen McDonald, the Hornets ate up three minutes off the clock. McDonald’s 20-yard burst reached Cabot South territory. On fourth-and-2 at the Panthers’ 35, however, a bad snap spoiled the Hornets’ attempt to run out the clock.
But the Panthers only had time for two plays and it was over.