HOT SPRINGS — The Bryant Blue Hornets seventh grade team of Bethel Middle School scored on their first two possessions then held on for a 16-6 victory over the Hot Springs Trojans seventh grade team on Monday night.
In a seventh-grade B game, the teams battled to a 6-6 tie.
Jake Taylor hit Keenan Latin for touchdown passes of 51 and 10 yards then ran in both two-point conversions as the Blue Hornets built a 16-0 lead.
Hot Springs, on its second series, broke a 56-yard touchdown run but missed on the two-point try and before the 20-minute first half was over, the final score was on the board.
After the Hornets had taken an 8-0 lead, the defense forced a fumble that Grant Daves recovered, setting up the second score from the Hot Springs 27. Cohen Chalmers ran it down to the 5 and, after a penalty moved them back, the second Taylor-to-Latin TD pass increased the lead.
Both teams moved the ball in the second half but could not change the score. Hot Springs drove to the Bryant Blue 17, but the Hornets’ defense again forced a fumble with Chalmers recovering.
The Hornets, in turn, drove from their own 17 to the Hot Springs 27 before turning it over on downs.
Back came the Trojans with a march to the Blue 19 where, on a fourth-and-3 play, Taylor intercepted a pass.
Chalmers had runs of 21 and 17 yards to spur a drive back to the Hot Springs 15 where penalties and a dropped fourth-down pass ended the threat at the 24.
Hot Springs’ final possession ate up the rest of the clock and ended with an incomplete pass.
“Overall, I was proud of all of our young men,” said Bethel coach Colton Bond. “We had a great week of practice. I thought our bus ride over was great. We were able to stop and go through a pre-game walk through. For seventh graders, this is huge. You have your first road trip, first pre-game walk through, and I thought our focus was there.
“We came out hot with two quick scoring drives then we just kind of went flat offensively,” he continued. “We still are not back 100 percent and we were able to build a lead then manage the game.
“Jake Taylor is just a natural competitor and he played lights out,” the coach related. “Cohen Chalmers ended the night right at 101 yards, so we ran the ball and threw it when we needed to. Keenan Latin had a great night as well with two TD catches. However, we have got to clean up the little penalties and little technical issues.”
Regarding the defense, Bond said, “Coach (Joe) Cook had a great game plan which put our guys in a good position to be successful by doing the little things right. Once again, Taylor led us in tackles and we had Brandin Grice, Carter Faulkner, Chalmers and Andrew Kimble who had several tackles. We also had four or five forced fumbles, where our guys are either holding up the ball or racing the other way, and ended up get blown dead with quick whistles but it happens that way sometimes.
“Overall, we forced three turnovers which was a team goal,” he added. “Grice forced some fumbles, Chalmers and Daves recovered. Taylor with a big fourth-down interception. These guys played hard last night and executed the game plan.”
In the B game, Hot Springs broke out on top with a long touchdown run but the defense stopped a run for two.
The Hornets opened with a 5-yard run by Asher Cook to the 35 where Mekhi Ray passed to Trey Battle, which turned into a 60-yard pass to the Hot Springs 5. On the next play, Cook scored. A try for two was denied.
Luke Inman made an interception to stop the Trojans’ second drive. From the Hot Springs 44, Chris Ocampo made a nice run but time ran out on the Hornets.
“As a team last week, Coach Cook and I were talking back and forth that the light bulbs are starting to go off for some young men. They are starting to pick it up and it showed in the B game. We had a rocky start, but we settled down and started to find a rhythm.
“Mekhi Ray had a great pass to Trey Battle on a play we had repped in the week in our game prep,” he noted. “Asher Cook had a nice touchdown run.
“This just goes back to those practices where, as a team, we got out in the rain and, simply put, just played football. The kids loved it and we made the best of the conditions then it flowed over into both games. Extremely proud of how this group is coming together as we travel to Benton to face the Panthers next Monday at 5 p.m.”