For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
Against a bigger, stronger Bearcats team from Little Rock Horace Mann Middle School, the Bryant White Hornets eighth grade team of Bryant Middle School grabbed a 6-0 lead on Tuesday night at Bryant Stadium.
The Bearcats rallied to tie the game by halftime then took a 12-6 lead on the first possession of the third quarter. Making a bid to score again, Mann drove to the Hornets’ 4 where, on a first-and-goal, running back Jaylon White was hit and fumbled. By a matter of inches, Bryant White’s Gavin Burton recovered just outside the end zone. So, instead of having a touchback and the ball on the 20, the Hornets’ offense had to root it out from there.
Unfortunately, the gutsy goal-line stand was then undermined when the Bearcats tackled Bryant White running back Daizure Hale in the end zone for a safety.
Though they had to kick it to Mann on a free kick after the safety, the Hornets were within a touchdown and a two-point conversion of a tie. They just needed another defensive stand and to put together a sustained drive.
Unfortunately, after a long return of the free kick by the Bearcats’ James Joiner, they drove for another touchdown with 6:32 left in the game to cap off a 22-6 victory at the expense of the Hornets.
Now 0-2, the Hornets will try to get their first win on Monday, Sept. 18, at home against Little Rock Forest Heights.
The game got off to a rough start for Bryant White. Running a double reverse on the first snap of the contest, the ball got loose and the Hornets lost 18 yards.
Mann, which did not punt in the game, went four-and-out on its first try. A tackle for a 4-yard loss by Robert Hendrix helped foil the series. On a fourth-and-8, Bryan Azpeizia stopped Bearcats’ quarterback Julius Graves for not gain and the Hornets took over at the Mann 45.
A penalty undermined the Hornets’ chance to move the chains and Pierce Kinley punted into the end zone for a touchback.
Despite a 16-yard run by Derrick Harris, the Bearcats stalled. Azpeizia made another tackle for a loss and, eventually, they turned it back over on downs at the Mann 37.
Two penalties and three plays later, however, the Hornets were punting again. This time, Kinley nailed the Bearcats at the 8. Mann was unable to pick up a first down and, despite facing a fourth-and-11 at their own 7, the Bearcats went for it. The Hornets squelched a pass play that picked up just one yard and took over at the 10.
And, on consecutive runs by Kinley, they scored. The TD came from the 3.
At try for two failed but it was 6-0 with 5:28 left in the half.
That, however, was enough time for the Bearcats to tie it. Joiner’s 18-yard run put them in position but, two plays later, the Hornets forced a fumble at the Bryant White 46. Mann covered it though.
The Hornets continued to thwart the Bearcats, forcing a fourth-and-17 at the Bryant 49. That’s when White heaved a deep pass that Ahkeem Albert hauled in. Roderick Bailey saved a touchdown for the moment with a tackle at the 9. But, on the next play, White kept for the touchdown as the Bearcats tied it.
With 1:39 left, the Hornets had hopes of answering but an interception ended that.
The Bearcats opened the second half with a long kickoff return. But the Hornets forced them into a third-and-4 from their Bryant 38 only to have Joiner break away for a 38-yard touchdown run that had Mann ahead for the first time in the game with 6:22 left in the third quarter.
An onside kick didn’t surprise Bryant White as Chris Elder fell on the loose ball and midfield. And with the great field position, the Hornets made a bid to get even or regain the lead, starting with a 14-yard burst by Kinley on an option keeper. They reached the Mann 32 but passes on third and fourth downs fell incomplete and the Bearcats took over.
That led to their drive inside the 5 that ended with the fumble and set up the game-breaking series of events.