Photos by Kevin Nagle
Jake Meaders threw for a score and ran for another while Dalen McDonald added a pair of TD runs as the Bryant Blue Hornets eighth grade team of Bethel Middle School bounced back from its first loss of the season with a convincing 26-0 win over the North Little Rock Lakewood Charging Wildcats Thursday night.
The Hornets’ defense set the tone for the evening, dropping the Cats for losses on six of their first eight offensive snaps. Those were the first of 12 plays in the game in which Lakewood suffered losses.
The win improved Bethel to 2-1 for the season. It came on the heels of a tough 12-8 loss at Lake Hamilton the previous week. The Hornets play at Conway on Thursday, Oct. 1.
Bryant Blue’s bid to take advantage of the defense’s stinginess was squandered initially. The Hornets drove to the Lakewood 24 but a fumble was recovered by the Cats.
In turn, Brandon Barber dropped running back Tyrone Walters for a loss on first down then Ethan Loomis foiled a reverse, tackling Treston Harris for a loss of 8. On third-and-22, the Cats went further backwards when Loomis and Will Hope met at the quarterback for a loss of 5.
From their own 7, the Cats had to punt and Josh Beck’s short kick gave the Hornets the ball 30 yards from paydirt. This time, they cashed in. Meaders kept for 7 then threw to Loomis for 17 yards to the 6. It took four plays from there but McDonald eventually got in from the 1.
On the conversion, Meaders found Loomis, making it 8-0.
Lakewood fared better on its subsequent series, picking up a couple of first downs to reach midfield. But on a second down there, Barber dropped Dillon Nichols for a loss of 7. After a procedure penalty made it third-and-20, quarterback Nate Leonard lost the handle and David Shifflet recovered at the Cats’ 30.
With just :33.3 showing on the clock in the half, the Hornets went to the air and Hayden Holt made a nice catch of Meaders’ well-placed throw down the seam for a touchdown to make it 14-0.
And the Hornets got the ball to start the second half. A nice return by Daylan Land gave them starting position at their own 42. Meaders found Loomis for 12 yards then kept on consecutive carries of 6 and 12 yards.
From the Lakewood 28, Christian Cain dashed 19 yards. A play later, Loomis caught a 6-yard pass from Meaders and was just stopped short of scoring. But Meaders kept on the next snap and got the points, increasing the lead to 20-0.
The defense forced a three-and-out and Cain fielded the Lakewood punt, returning it 32 yards to the 13. McDonald carried twice and, on the second run, scored from the 5 to make it 26-0 with 1:02 left in the third quarter.
The Cats picked up one first down and reached their own 48 but, on a fourth down, the Hornets stuffed the run by Brandon Davenport and took over.
Head coach Shane Clancy gave his reserves some playing time an with under three minutes left, the Hornets had to punt for the first time in the game.
Lakewood made a bid to drive for a score but was unable to overcome a holding penalty as time ran out.