After falling behind 8-0 in the first quarter, the Bryant Blue Hornets eighth grade team of Bethel Middle School scored two quick touchdowns in the second and the defense made them hold up for a 12-8 victory on Thursday night.
Quarterback Randy Thomas ran for one touchdown and threw for the second. In between, the Hornets benefited from a missed alignment on a kickoff by the Wolves receiving team to recover a pop up kick, setting up the second TD.
The win improved Bethel to 3-0 on the season. They’ll play again on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at home against Mabelvale.
Lake Hamilton looked like it was going to make the Hornets endure a long night at the start of the game. The Wolves, behind a 29-yard run by Mike Harris drove to the Bryant 16 on two plays. A holding penalty pushed them back and, two plays later, they faced a fourth-and-12 at the Hornets’ 26. Quarterback Brennon Gibson completed a pass to C.J. Reynolds. But a fine open-field tackle by Thomas forced the Wolves to turn the ball over on downs.
The Hornets got nothing on three plays on offense and punted back to Lake Hamilton, which put together a touchdown drive, once again sparked by a 29-yard run by Harris. Gibson’s throw to Cole Plyler from the 8 capped the drive. Gibson threw to Blaine Merriot for the two-point conversion and it was 8-0.
And it looked like the Wolves would be getting the ball back soon thereafter. The Hornets faced a third-and-8 from their own 43 when Thomas broke free and streaked 57 yards for a touchdown.
A try for two failed and it was 8-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, the front line of the Lake Hamilton return team lined up at its own 45 instead of at the 50, the normal spot on a kickoff from the 40. Martin Ramirez teed up the ball and popped up the kick. The Lake Hamilton player closest to the ball hesitated for come across the 45 to get the ball and Bryant’s Sebastian Dunn caught on the fly right in front of him.
The Hornets set up offensively at the Wolves’ 41. A 10-yard run by Keethan Hudson produced a first down on the second play of the series. A play later, Thomas kept for 23 to the 5. Hudson’s two-yard plunge set up Thomas’ TD throw to, appropriately enough, Dunn, making it 12-8.
Lake Hamilton fielded a short kickoff this time. Hudson, playing on defense, dropped Gibson for a loss on first down and the Wolves were unable to make up the ground. Tyler O’Neal stopped Harris after a pickup of a yard then Logan Burton stopped Gibson for a loss of a yard.
That forced a punt and the Hornets used up the last 1:28 to take their 12-8 lead to the half.
To start the third quarter, Bethel played a little keepaway. It took 11 plays and all but 16 seconds of the period. From their own 33, the Hornets drove to the Lake Hamilton 31 behind the running of O’Neal and Thomas. The lone pass was an 8-yard completion to Dunn.
But lost-yardage plays on two of the next three snaps left Bryant Blue in a fourth-and-27. Cody Conrad punted the Wolves back to their own 18 and when Colby Lowe tried to return it, Dunn dropped him for a loss at the 13.
Lake Hamilton marched to the Bryant 48. On a second-down play there, Sam Perryman almost intercepted a pass. A play later, O’Neal sacked Gibson for a loss of 11.
On a fourth-and-25 and just over two minutes left to play in the game, the Wolves went for it and caught a break. Thomas nearly intercepted a pass down the middle but was called for interference. It wasn’t, however, enough for a first down. On fourth-and-10 at the Bryant 49, Gibson threw again only to have Thomas knocked it down.
Bethel took over with 1:46 left and sapped as much time as it could. Another Conrad punt gave the Wolves one last desperate opportunity from its own 28. It came down to a third-and-2 at the 36. Gibson threw deep only to have Perryman intercept to end the game.
BRYANT BLUE 12, LAKE HAMILTON 8
Score by quarters
Wolves 8 0 0 0 — 8
HORNETS 0 12 0 0 — 12
LAKE HAMILTON — Plyler 8 pass from Gibson (Merriot pass from Gibson), 0:03.9
BRYANT BLUE — Thomas 57 run (run failed), 6:06
BRYANT BLUE — Dunn 3 pass from Thomas (pass failed), 3:28
First downs 6 6
Rushes-yds 17-93 24-112
Passing 4-9-1 2-5-0
Passing yds 34 11
Punts-avg. 1-23.0 3-30.3
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-0
Penalties-yds 5-37 2-20
Rushing: BRYANT BLUE, Thomas 10-80, Hudson 6-21, O’Neal 8-11; LAKE HAMILTON, Harris 10-84, Baldwin 2-13, Darrough 1-11, Gibson 4-(-15).
PASSING (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT BLUE, Thomas 2-5-0-11; LAKE HAMILTON, Gibson 4-9-1-34.
RECEIVING: BRYANT BLUE, Dunn 2-11; LAKE HAMILTON, Reynolds 3-26, Plyler 1-8.