Every time it looked like the Bryant Blue Hornets eighth grade team of Bethel Middle School might have them hemmed in, the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats produced a big play. Big, physical and fast, the Cats scored five times on plays of 46 yards or more as they built a 22-0 lead by halftime.
Effective adjustments on offense sparked a comeback out of the Hornets but, after both of their touchdowns, North Little Rock answered with long one-play answers to thwart Bethel’s hopes.
The result was a 34-16 loss for the Hornets as they fell to 2-2. But head coach Josh Akers was no doubt consoled by the way his team competed until the very end against a tough opponent.
On the third play of the game, the Cats’ Jordan Kelly threw deep to Felix Wade for a 46-yard touchdown. Johnny Lewis ran in the two-point conversion and it was 8-0.
The Hornets recovered an onside kick, which gave them a short field. Behind the running of Fabian Torres, they picked up a first down. Quarterback Carson Burnett then completed a pass to Issac Devine for 26 yards to the North Little Rock 12.
The effort was then undermined by a pair of penalties and a sack that produced a fourth-and-30 at the 32.
A punt into the end zone gave the Cats possession at the 20. Despite an illegal block penalty that pushed them back to the 12, they drove for another score. Along the way, they had to convert a fourth down. Later, it was third-and-9 when Kelly found Donovan Ajoku deep for a 57-yard touchdown. Wade ran for two and it was 16-0
They would score again just before the half on a 51-yard pass from Kelly to Lewis.
The Hornets came out in the second half and moved the ball with Andrew Stueve and Torres trading carries, they got to the North Little Rock 29. But, on a first down there, North Little Rock forced a fumble and recovered it.
Aided by a face mask penalty, the Cats marched to the Bryant Blue 13. A touchdown run by Wade was negated by a holding penalty and the Hornets’ defense stepped up. Four plays later, North Little Rock turned the ball over on downs at the 7.
Sparked by Burnett’s 44-yard pass to Lawson Speer and the quarterback’s 18-yard keeper, the Hornets flashed down the field and, on the fifth play of the drive, Stueve laced his way 20 yards for a touchdown that, with Torres’ run for 2, made it 22-8.
But, on the very next snap, North Little Rock’s Jiquori Stewart went 58 yards for an answering 6, extending the margin to 20.
The rejuvenated Bethel offense needed just three plays to score after that. Burnett’s 55 yard pass to Jeff Silva set up a 15-yard touchdown toss to Speer for the TD. Burnett threw to Issac Devine for the two-point conversion and it was 28-16 with 4:10 still to play.
But North Little Rock recovered Bryant’s onside kick and on the first play from the North Little Rock 48, Wade set sail to paydirt with 3:44 left, capping off the win.
Bethel’s last gasp was undermined when Burnett was sacked by North Little Rock linebacker Davian Vayson. Though Torres got loose for a 15-yard run, two incomplete passes followed and the Hornets turned it over on downs.
The Cats ran out the last 1:45 to close it out.
Now 2-2 on the season, the Hornets will try to bounce back on Thursday, Sept. 28, with a long trip to El Dorado.