Hornets be-Devil Dogs at scrimmage
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
MORRILTON — If the Bryant Hornets football team needed a confidence boost, they provided themselves one Thursday night in a preseason scrimmage against the Morrilton Devil Dogs.
Morrilton, while admittedly a classification lower than Bryant, is nonetheless among the best teams in one of the best Class AAAA (until this year AAA) conferences in the state. The Devil Dogs made it to the AAA State quarterfinals last season. It was their third playoff season in the last four years.
In three quarters of varsity scrimmage Thursday (the JV teams played the fourth quarter), Bryant bedeviled the Dogs, 26-7, racking up over 350 yards of offense with all of their projected starting running backs sidelined with injuries.
Senior quarterback Tad Farmer connected on 20-of-31 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a score. Eight different Hornet receivers hauled in Farmer aerials.
On the ground, senior halfback Chris Dickens amassed 65 yards on just five carries while junior fullback Aaron Mears bulled for 41 yards on nine tries.
“We showed offensively tonight that we could score quick, we can have a little drive with some big plays, we could overcome some long third downs and those are all positives,” stated Hornets head coach Daryl Patton. “And we did it without our starting backs. I mean, I’m tickled to death with what the other guys did.
“We had some kids step up and show they can compete at this level,” Patton added. “I thought Ronnie Easley stepped up and made some plays tonight. Mark Medlin, Matt Brown, Tad Farmer. The offensive linemen passed blocked real well.
“And I don’t want to leave out the defense. I thought the defense did a good job. They bent but they didn’t break. They made some turnovers, created some things for us.
“We had some things we broke down on, some roughness penalties. We’ve got to become better disciplined. But those are things we can work on. Overall, I thought the kids competed hard and played with a lot of intensity and pride.”
In the varsity’s three quarters, the Hornets’ offense never had a possession in which they didn’t make at least one first down. Their first drive (from their own 30) stalled out at the Morrilton 34 after a motion penalty killed some early momentum created by Farmer’s three completions in four attempts to open the workout. An 18-yard connection with Easley on the very first play set the tone.
In turn, however, Morrilton failed to move the sticks in three plays as Bryant bottled up the Dogs’ wishbone offense, forcing a punt.
A 19-yard pass from Farmer to Tanner Francis, who caught seven passes for 130 yards, got Bryant’s subsequent drive to paydirt off on the right foot.
An 18-yard holding penalty that negated another 19-yard pass put the drive in doubt but Farmer and Francis again teamed up for a 30-yard pass play that turned second-and-32 into third-and-2.
Dickens picked up the first down with a 16-yard sprint and before long Farmer found Luke Brown in the left flat from the 7-yard line. Brown, a sophomore halfback projected as a starter after being sidelined with a muscle pull, made the catch and fought through a tackler to the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.
A bad snap sabotaged the point after.
It didn’t take long for the Hornet defense to get the ball back either. On the third play of Morrilton’s subsequent drive, Bryant safety Bobby Winn picked off a tipped pass at the 49 and returned it to the Morrilton 41.
Despite Farmer’s 11-yard pass to Easley, the Hornets appeared to be stopped five plays into the resulting possession. Facing a fourth-and-6 at the Morrilton 26, however, Patton decided to go for it and Farmer connected with Matt Brown for the score, making it 12-0.
A 23-yard pass by the Devil Dogs, which converted a third-and-5 at their own 35, keyed Morrilton’s lone scoring drive of the game.
And after the Dogs got on the board, they forced a fumble, recovering at the Bryant 30. Morrilton got to the 19 but couldn’t get much further. Cornerback Josh Baumbeck knocked down a pass then defensive tackle B.J. Hayre made consecutive stops on runs up the middle to force a fourth-and-6 at the 15.
A 32-yard field goal attempt failed.
Bryant, in turn, drove deep into Morrilton territory again before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty turned a third-and-1 at the 9 into a third-and-16 at the 24. Two plays later, the Hornets gave up the ball on downs.
The Devil Dogs managed to get within a yard of a first down at their own 38 and, with time running out in the period, decided to go for it. The Hornets stopped them short and took over.
Farmer passed 5 yards to Medlin then found Francis on a 33-yard scoring play. Nick Harbert booted the extra point and Bryant’s lead was 19-7 with 1:28 left in the period.
Bryant also got the first possession of the next quarter. The Hornets marched 70 yards in eight plays. Dickens contributed an 11 yard run before Farmer connected on three straight: 16 yards to Matt Brown, 14 yards to Francis then 15 yards to Derek Carnell. On first-and-goal at the 1, Farmer sneaked it over with 9:56 showing.
This time, Josh Ault was good on the PAT setting the final score.
Morrilton’s subsequent drive ended when sophomore safety Josh Farmer picked off a pass at the Bryant 16.
The Hornets drove to the Morrilton 25 before sophomore quarterback Jeramie Wooten was sacked for a loss of 10 on a second-and-3. A play later, Matt Brown came on for Bryant’s lone punt of the varsity action.
Morrilton also was forced to punt then, after getting the ball back on another fumble. But two plays later, junior linebacker Travis Lawhon made an interception with :09 left in the period to foil that threat.
The JV quarter was scoreless. Bryant’s work on offense was highlighted by Wooten’s 17-yard pass to Michael Wallace late in the workout. Good defensive plays were turned in by Justin Keen, Stefan Morris and Phillip Primm among others. Primm, a sophomore linebacker, had an interception as well.
“I told them, ‘Expect to win. Expect good things to happen,'” Patton said. “The kids are pumped right now. They believe. We’re not there. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve got the potential to have something special here.”
The season begins this Friday when sixth-ranked Conway visits Bryant.