Photos by Kevin Nagle
Forcing six turnovers and allowing just 21 yards of total offense going into the fourth quarter, the Bryant Blue Hornets eighth grade team of Bethel Middle School opened the 2015 season with a 28-0 romp over the Little Rock Horace Mann Bearcats on Tuesday night.
The Hornets turned the first three turnovers and a botched punt into points. Christian Cain made an interception to set up his own TD run on the next play then scooped and scored on a fumble. Dalen McDonald ran for a score and Jake Meaders passed to Hayden Linn for another following Bearcat turnovers.
“It’s a lot better to be 1-0 and 0-1,” declared Bethel head coach Shane Clancy. “I guess jitters, the first quarter was kind of ugly. We settled down in the second quarter.
“We played well in the third quarter and got some twos in to get some work,” he noted. “It’s a lot easier to correct mistakes after a win.”
Asked about the turnovers, the Clancy added, “The defense did well. That’s what we preached to them before the game. They came out and did and we came out ahead tonight.”
Taking two steps forward and one step back on the opening possession of the game, the Hornets drove to the Mann 1. Though there were four lost-yardage plays on the drive as well as a blocking penalty, McDonald broke a 13-yard run and Meaders threw a completion of 13 yards to Ethan Loomis and, later, hit him for another 21 to convert a fourth down.
Cain was dropped for a 3-yard loss on third-and-goal at the 1. A fourth-down option play was disrupted and Mann took over on downs at the 7.
On the first play, Hassan Jackson broke a 16-yard run, which proved to be the longest run from scrimmage for the Bearcats. The first two of seven lost-yardage plays in the game for Mann followed. The second was a bad snap that got loose. Riedmueller, who had made the stop on the 5-yard loss on the previous play, pounced on the loose ball at the 4 and, on the next play, McDonald scored the first touchdown.
Meaders kept on the two-point conversion and it was 8-0 five seconds into the second quarter.
The Bearcats picked up a pair of first downs on then next possession but had a 19-yard run by Jackson on a broken play called back due to an illegal block. On third-and-29, quarterback Preston Philipps tried to go to the air only to have Cain pick it off at the 44 and return it to the 24.
On the first snap from there, Cain got the call, skirted right end and sprinted to paydirt. Meaders added the conversion run and it was 14-0.
On the subsequent kickoff, Jonathan Giron’s kick rolled to the 2. Return man Marwin Edwards II had to retreat to get to the ball and when he struggled to pick it up with the Hornets’ coverage team bearing down on him, he went to a knee. So the Bearcats had to start from there.
An 11-yard burst by Kendel Givens got them out of the shadow of the goalposts but on the next run, much of it was negated by a holding penalty that put the Bearcats at their own 9. The Hornets nearly got a safety on the next play as David Shifflet, Ethan Hilkert and Daylan Land converged on running back Michael Fells at the goal line. Though he fell into the end zone, the officials marked his forward progress at the 2.
Shifflet dropped Edwards for no game on second down, then Edwards barely got out of the end zone on third down as Randy Crook and Tanner Wilson hauled him down at the 1.
The Bearcats tried to punt off a pitch play out of the end zone but Jackson’s punt was low and ricocheted off a teammate’s helmet. Cain covered the ball at the 6 with :14.7 left in the half.
On the first play from there, Meaders found an open Linn for the touchdown. He then passed to Riedmueller for the conversion and it was 22-0 at the half.
Mann got the ball to start the second half but went backwards. Shifflet made another tackle for a loss then Logan Hubbard and Hilkert sacked quarterback Keith Green Jr., at the 21.
On fourth down, the Bearcats looked like they were going to pitch and punt again but a bad snap cost them. Jackson retreated to the end zone to retrieve the ball and made a nice run to get back out to the 29. But he fumbled there and Cain scooped and scored to make it 28-0 with 4:08 left in the third quarter. Giron’s extra point attempt was strong enough but went left of the upright.
Two plays into the Bearcats’ next possession, another fumble occurred. Shifflet recovered. McDonald broke a 13-yard run and Meaders completed an 11-yard pass to Jaeger Burks. McDonald converted a third down with a 3-yard run to the Mann 14 on the last play of the third quarter. Reserves took over from there.
Bethel turned the ball over on downs at the 22 and, two plays later, Preston Philipps hauled off and threw deep to Demetrius Feemster who caught the ball in stride near midfield. Though he had a step on the pursuit, Matt Curtis chased him down and not only made the tackle but caused a fumble that he recovered himself at the Bethel 16.
The Bearcats’ frustration erupted with a personal foul penalty on the Hornets’ first snap from there. Moments later, Brandan Barber broke a 47-yard run only to have most of it negated by a holding penalty.
But the Hornets worked the clock down under a minute before Davis Atkinson punted. To add to the Bearcats’ woes, they fumbled the return and Reidmueller recovered. Meaders took a knee to end it.
Bryant Blue is scheduled to return to action on Thursday, Sept. 17, at Lake Hamilton.