By Rob Patrick
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Chris Rycraw’s school-record rushing performance in 2008 was the fact that, after quarterback Jimi Easterling was injured at Cabot, there was really no mystery about what the Bryant Hornets were going to do and who was going to have the ball.
And yet, Rycraw continued to rack up the yardage including 192 in the final regular-season game against Little Rock Central and 213 against Springdale in the first round of the playoffs.
It was a credit to him, of course, but also to the Hornets’ veteran offensive line and the ingenuity of the team’s offensive coaches.
By Rob Patrick
It was a heyday for the Haydens.
In the second half of their regular-season opener against the Searcy Lion Cubs at Bryant Stadium Thursday night, the Bryant Hornets freshman team rallied from behind twice for a 22-18 win.
Quarterback Hayden Lessenberry threw a pair of second half touchdown passes to Hayden Daniel to put the Hornets ahead then Hayden Stewart, with some help from Hunter Schelle, tackled Searcy quarterback Reed Haggard for a safety with 1:16 left to play to seal the victory.
FOUNTAIN LAKE — The Bryant Hornets won two of their five games at a 7-on-7 football competition at Fountain Lake on Saturday. The three losses were by a total of 8 points.
The Hornets will play a league 7-on-7 football competition at North Little Rock on July 20 with games against Augusta, Little Rock Central, North Little Rock and Morrilton to wrap up the summer. Fall practice begins Monday, Aug. 3.
Bryant opened with a 16-14 loss to Hot Springs Lakeside then dropped a 22-20 loss to Lake Hamilton when a last-second touchdown pass from Jimi Easterling to Caleb Thomas was waved off when it was ruled the snap came after the buzzer ending the game. After a 13-9 loss to Pulaski Academy, Bryant pounded the host team 37-7 then knocked Conway out of a championship final with a 20-14 win.
LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Hornets football team went unbeaten including two wins over highly-regarded Pulaski Academy and another over defending champion Hot Springs Lakeside to capture the championship of the Pulaski Robinson 7-on-7 at Mighty Bluebird Field on Thursday.
Senior quarterback Jimi Easterling threw 19 touchdowns to eight different receivers on the day with only three interceptions while the Hornets defense came up with eight interceptions.
Bryant swept pool play 48-17 over England, 10-9 over Jacksonville and 28-27 over PA. In the latter game, Bryant offensive coordinator Dale Jones reported, "If you score, you don't have to make a PAT, you get 7 points but if you want to go for two, it's from the 10-yard line. Their second score, they decided to go for two and didn't get it so we kind of played ahead the rest of the game. As long as we scored and kept the ball, we were all right."
In the tournament round, the Hornets opened with a 34-0 romp over the host team. "They tried to play man-to-man (coverage) and it didn't work out too well," Jones mentioned.
They then ousted Lakeside 27-20 in the semifinals, avenging the loss to the Rams in the championship game last summer.
In the title contest, a re-match with Pulaski Academy, the Hornets prevailed 37-15.
Improved execution, renewed effort and intensity, enthusiasm and, for the most part, a healthy team — and everybody got into the act — were enough to make Paul Calley a happy head football coach as spring football work in pads came to a conclusion with a lively, competitive scrimmage on Friday afternoon.
"It went well," Calley declared. "We scrimmaged five different groups on offense and four different groups on defense, and I thought the execution and effort on both sides of the ball was tremendous.
"From Monday, which was dominated by mistakes and lackluster effort, to today, four days later, is hard to imagine," he stated. "It was that kind of transformation. It was a very productive day on both sides of the ball. I feel like we have established a pretty good idea of who our starters are going to be and our top backups."
The Bryant Hornets defense returned to the form it had shown last week, much to the frustration of the Bryant offense, in a scrimmage held on Wednesday as spring football workouts in pads continued.
The Hornet D had looked a little sluggish in Monday's scrimmage but proved tough to block again on Wednesday.
"I thought we played with a little more intensity today," acknowledged Hornets defensive coordinator Steve Griffith. "I think part of that just had to do with really we were only going six or seven plays at a time so I think the kids cut loose and got after it pretty good.
"I thought our pass rush was a little bit better and we were moving to the football as a group a whole lot better," he continued. "And when we did get guys held up, we had other guys rallying to the football as a group which we really hadn't done very well on Monday."
The majority of the scrimmage involved the younger players but, after a light day on Thursday, most of the work in Friday's scrimmage will go to the first- and second-team guys.
With over 100 players out for spring football, the Bryant Hornets' six-man coaching staff has its hands full. Usually that kind of ratio means that the younger guys get less work but, thanks to some volunteers, that's not the case so much this spring.
"My original plan was just to not dress everybody out and just work our first three groups," said head coach Paul Calley. "We've got almost five groups and we don't have enough coaches to work them. But we've got some former players, Sam Tucker, Drew King and Ethan Powell, who are both helping on the offensive side of the ball. Ethan Passmore is helping on the defensive side of the ball. Garrett Bock, he's injured, but he's helping the young receivers. So I've got enough people volunteering their time that know what they're doing to help us that it has allowed us to get all of our young people a lot of good reps. Without those guys volunteering their time, there's no way we could've done that."
Calley mentioned that former Arkansas Razorbacks assistant and Henderson State head coach Ken Turner will be at practice later this week to work with the Hornets kickers. Calley played for Turner at HSU.
Outside, at last, the Hornets got back on track on Monday as the second week of spring work got under way.
It's times like this that make the indoor practice facility at Bryant High School Fieldhouse so valuable. With more rain on an already soggy practice field, the Bryant Hornets football team has been able to start the two weeks of spring workouts in pads with sure footing though they were limited with what they could do in the passing game.
Tuesday, head coach Paul Calley assessed the first two days of work including some limited scrimmaging on Tuesday.
"It went better than I expected," he stated. "We're limited, but the intensity's been there, the enthusiasm's there."
The 2009 Hornet Football Camp will be held June 1-3. The camp is open to all athletes entering grades 4 through 9.
Camp times are 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. All campers need to be dropped off and picked up at the high school fieldhouse. Camp will not be canceled for rain. T-shirts will be given to each camper and awards will be handed out to the top campers.
Pre-registration cost will be $55 per person. Forms, which are available at the Bryant Fieldhouse, should be turned in by May 31. Registration after May 31 will be $65 per person. Send registration forms and camp fees to: Coach Kenny Horn, BMS, 201 NW 4th St., Bryant, AR 72022.
The camp will feature a Lineman Challenge and a Flag Football Competition.
Coaches from Bryant will offer young athletes the chance to develop their fundamentals and skills in a championship atmosphere at the camp, said Horn, who is the freshman team head coach at Bryant High. They will be taught drills they can do to help develop their skills for the future. Fundamental skills in areas of quarterbacking, receiving, running and line play will be stressed. Defensive drills will include line play, linebackers and secondary drills.
For more information, contact Coach Horn at 847-5663 or email email@example.com.
LITTLE ROCK — Led by top performances from Sammil Watson, Brett Clemons, Kody Perlson, Kyle Hampton and Kendrick Farr, a group of 40 Bryant Hornets athletes took top honors at a simulated scouting combine at D-1 Sports Training competing against a group of Benton Panthers on Saturday, April 18.
The Bryant team ranking was in the 84th percentile, according the head football coach Paul Calley. Benton's group ranking was 52.
Both squads received a donation for their efforts. Bryant, by winning, garnered a $1,000 check. Benton received $500.
The athletes competed in 10, 20 and 40 yard sprints; vertical jump; standing broad jump; L-drill; Pro-Ag Drill; and bench press reps.
Spring football practice commences for the Hornets on Monday, May 11 and conclude Friday, May 22.