For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
CONWAY — Before the Bryant Blue Hornets eighth grade team of Bethel Middle School could quite get its feet on the ground, the Conway White Wampus Cats eighth grade team had forged a 26-0 lead Thursday night.
The Cats built that lead behind the whirling, jump-cutting gallops of running back Bryce Bohanon and a pair of bombs from quarterback Ben Weese. The Hornets, who were plagued by nine lost-yardage plays including bad snaps and sacks, found some rhythm on offense after that but wound up absorbing a 26-14 loss.
It was the first setback for Bethel since Sept. 8, snapping a four-game win streak. The Hornets will try to bounce back and end the season on a high note when they travel to North Little Rock on Monday, Oct. 31.
Bryant Blue looked strong defensively early on. Conway White’s game-opening possession was halted when, on a fourth-and-1 at midfield, Hayden Schrader yanked down Weese for a loss of 9.
The Hornets took over just 41 yards away from paydirt. But they struggled to run the ball and, on a fourth-and-4 at the 35, a deep pass by Garrett Wilson was intercepted by Jason Cruz who returned to the Conway White 32.
Again, however, the Hornets’ defense shut down the Cats. On first down, Bohanon was cropped for a 5-yard loss by Noah Davis and, two plays later, they were setting up for a punt.
River Gregory set up for the return but muffed the catch and Conway’s Dylan Brown recovered at the Bryant 40.
On first down, defensive end Braden Frederick popped Bohanon for an 11-yard loss on the last play of the quarter.
The second period didn’t start as well. Weese scrambled for 14 yards to set up a third-and-6. Bohanon then got loose and wove his way 36 yards for a touchdown.
Down 7-0, the Hornets got a good start on their next possession when Hart Penfield found the corner for 16 yards. Gregory powered for 5 yards then Wilson kept for 11 to the Conway White 39.
On first down, Wilson was stopped for a 1-yard loss then, on the next play, a bad snap cost the Hornets 20 yards. A third-and-31 turned into a fourth-and-41 when Wilson was sacked.
Baker Gray’s punt was then partially blocked and the Wampus Cats had a short field to work with at their own 49. And Jamaal Bethune got free for an apparent 51-yard touchdown on the first snap. But a holding penalty negated the run.
Two plays later, however, Weese fired a deep pass towards Micah Mosby down the left seam. Though Mosby pushed off to get free for the catch, it went unnoticed resulting in a 51-yard touchdown pass.
Things didn’t get much better for the Hornets after that. A short return of a deep kickoff left them starting the next series at their own 14. A swing pass from Wilson to Austin Schroeder lost 2 yards then Wilson was sacked for a 6-yard loss. On third-and-18, Bohanon intercepted a deep pass and returned to the 14.
An illegal block negated some of the return but Conway White was still just 29 yards away from adding to the advantage. Though Frederick stopped Bethune for a loss on first down, the Cats were able to convert a fourth-and-12 on a 14-yard run by Bohanon with 30 seconds left. A play later, he scored from the 17 with just :16.6 on the clock to make it a 20-0 game at the half.
Bethel got the ball to start the second half but a holding penalty cost them 16 yards then another bad snap resulted in a 15-yard loss as they went from first-and-10 at the 36 to third-and-36 from the 10.
Gregory dashed for 12 yards to get some of that back before Gray came on to punt.
Conway’s feast or famine offense produced again. Bohanon lost 3 yards on first down but, on second down, he sprinted 54 yards for another TD, making it 26-0 with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
Picking up the pace, the Hornets gamely forged a rally. Gregory came through with a big return on the ensuing kickoff and Xavier Foote provided a spark with a 16-yard run. Gregory slashed for 15 to the Conway 23.
It looked like the Hornets would suffer another drive-killing loss when Wilson fell on a loose ball at the 30. But he countered with runs of 11 and 8 yards to get a first down. His pass to the Hayden Schrader on a slant route reached the end zone just 1:23 after Conway White had scored.
Wilson threw to Gray for a two-point conversion.
The Hornets had a chance to recover an onside kick too as Conway’s Mason Pregeant had the ball bounce off his chest. But he was able to scramble back on it at the Bryant 48.
The Wampus Cats made another bid to score when Bohanon hauled in a 46-yard pass from Weese. By not giving up on the play, however, the Hornets dragged him down at the 1.
And they wound up denying the touchdown. Koby Melton hauled down Bethune for a loss on first down then a false start penalty moved the Cats back to the 9. On second and goal, the ball got away from Bohanon and Elswick recovered at the 10.
The Hornets responded with an impressive 90-yard scoring drive that took less than three minutes in the hurry-up offense.
Foote’s 4-yard run converted a third down early in the drive. Another third down was converted when Wilson fired to Schrader for 23 yards to midfield. Foote followed with runs of 10 and 14 yards. Wilson’s pass to Schrader reached the 14 and, a play later, Foote scored from the 6.
A try for two was unsuccessful, leaving it 26-14 with 3:47 still to play.
Conway was able to use about a minute of that but the Cats suffered their own bad snap that cost them 16 yards after they’d reached Bryant’s 41. A third-down pass was intercepted by Davis at the 32, keeping the Hornets’ comeback hopes alive with 2:50 to go.
Schrader caught an 8-yard pass but then Wilson was sacked. Foote couldn’t sneak through on a running play and picked up just 3. That set up a fourth-and-9 at the Bethel 33.
After a Conway timeout with 1:55 left, Wilson was sacked by Bethune to end the rally.