Mustangs edge Junior Bears, 7-6
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
SHERWOOD — Though Bryant football has gained a reputation recently for having a pass-happy offensive philosophy, time and again the coaches have noted that they just want to take advantage of what the opponents’ defense will give them. Many of those defenses — out of habit and/or traditional football strategy — gear up to stop the running game and dare you to beat them through the air, particularly at the junior high level where the traditional fundamentals are emphasized so much. That leaves them vulnerable to the pass and Bryant teams try to take advantage of that.
Thursday night, however, in the Bryant Junior High Mustangs’ season opener at Sylvan Hills, the Junior Bears’ defense was geared to stop the passing game. A hard rush with a mix of blitzes was geared to put pressure on Bryant quarterback Scott Peeler, who, it was hoped, would have to rush his passes and thus be off-target.
But thinking that if you stop the pass, you stop Bryant proved to be an ineffective approach as well. The Mustangs, while held to three completions in 14 attempts through the air, turned to its ground game and not only racked up over 150 yards rushing but played ball control keeping the ball away from Sylvan Hills on the way to a 7-6 win in sweltering heat at Sylvan Hills.
The Junior Bears, who run a wishbone attack on offense, wound up getting beat at their own game as Bryant’s Brandon Spurr rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
“A win’s a win’s a win,” declared Mustangs’ head coach Scott Neathery. “I’ll take any win we can get.
“We really couldn’t get everything going offensively,” he noted. “(Sylvan Hills’) middle was a little weak and we were trying to exploit them with the run. To run the ball, run the ball, run the ball is usually not our game. It’s not what we’re used to but we tried to take what they were giving us and that’s what we went with.
First-half penalties and five fumbles — though they only lost one — kept the offense from being more productive. But the stinginess of the defense made up for that, for the most part. Sylvan Hills only managed to penetrate Bryant territory three times in the game. The only time in the first half was when the Bears recovered a Bryant fumble at midfield with :33 left in the half. They picked up a yard from there before time ran out.
In the second half, a 38 yard punt return allowed the Bears to open a series at the Bryant 38. From there they scored their lone touchdown.
But it took a fourth-down conversion to keep the drive alive then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Sylvan Hills caught the Mustangs off-guard with a reverse on which wide receiver Zach Turpin ran 22 yards for the score.
Trailing 7-6, the Bears tried for two but a delay penalty made that a tougher assignment, then the Mustangs stopped the attempt well short.
Sylvan Hills had one last-ditch effort to win with a drive that started at their 19 and reached the Bryant 48 before the Mustangs’ Phillip Cottingham and Jesse Nordman jarred the ball loose from Anthony Weaver and Peeler recovered with 1:40 left to play.
The Mustangs then were able to run out the clock thanks to a 16-yard run by Spurr that converted a second-and-11 with :44 left.
“That’s one thing I am proud of,” Neathery noted, “is that last drive. We needed to run the clock out and I felt like we were hitting a little adversity (with a lost-yardage play on first down) there and we overcame it and got a first down. When the chips were down, we overcame it and I’m proud of that.
“All in all, the defense did a real good job,” he added. “We had one breakdown (on the reverse).”
The teams traded punts in the first quarter, though Bryant’s offense was a bit more productive that Sylvan Hills’. The Bears managed just one first down in the half and a Bryant penalty helped with that.
The Mustangs were penalized six times in the first half. Twice, positive yardage was negated on offense. In fact, on Bryant’s second possession, a drive that reached the Sylvan Hills’ 12 was spoiled by an illegal block in the back.
On Bryant’s first possession of the second quarter, a holding penalty negated a 7-yard run by Bo Lee, but this time the Mustangs were able to overcome the mistake. Peeler passed 14 yards to Todd Bryan for a first down then Spurr and the offensive line went to work. Runs of 4, 5, 17, 13 and 8 yards got the Mustangs to the 16 and when a personal foul penalty against Sylvan Hills was tacked on to the last run, the Mustangs were at the 8 with a first-and-goal.
Peeler and Bryan connected again to get it to the 1 and, from there, Spurr blasted through for the touchdown with 3:38 left in the half.
Bryan then booted the extra point that wound up being the difference in the ballgame.
After the Bears cut the lead to 7-6 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Mustangs responded with a drive that may not have produced points but that consumed clock, leaving Sylvan Hills with only one final stab and a winning drive.
That drive ate up three minutes and was highlighted by a 10-yard run from Bryan and a 13-yard bolt by Spurr. The Mustangs reached the 22 but, on a fourth-and-5, Spurr was stopped at the 19 and Sylvan Hills took over. Seven plays later, the Bears’ fumble ended their chances.