Bethel’s clutch second-half TD march maintains unbeaten record

CABOT — When the Bryant Blue Hornets eighth grade team of Bethel Middle School scored on Tyler O’Neal’s 1-yard plunge for the last play of the first half, it gave them a 12-6 lead over the Cabot South Panthers. And with the prospect of getting the ball back to start the second half, they looked like they were in great shape.

Against any Cabot team, the way they grind out yardage and eat up clock, an opponent has to stay even or ahead. They’re usually going to have a limited number of offensive opportunities.

To start the second half, however, Cabot South recovered an onside kick to deny the Hornets a chance to go up by two scores, an almost insurmountable deficit for the time-consuming Panthers, particularly in a game with seven-minute quarters.

And the Panthers did their thing with that extra possession, using 12 plays and all but 1:24 of the third quarter to cover the 44 yards to a touchdown. They converted three fourth-down situations during the march. For the game, they were good on eight fourth-down tries.

The touchdown came on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 that Jaiden Davis just barely got over the line. With a two-point conversion on a pass from quarterback Lyndon Nichols to Tyler George, Cabot South had a 14-12 lead.

But the Hornets turned the tables on the Panthers. After Will McEntire caught a pop-up kickoff, Bethel methodically drove 56 yards in 12 plays, eating up all but 1:56 left in the game. Tyler O’Neal’s 5-yard run got into the end zone then quarterback Randy Thomas tossed a pass to Sebastian Dunn for the two-point conversion that made it 20-14.

And Bryant Blue held on for the victory as they remained undefeated on the season at 6-0 going into their final contest at Conway White on Thursday, Oct. 30.

The win came despite the Hornets having to defend one last play with no time on the clock. Cabot South was able to drive to the Bryant 44 and when Nichols was stopped for a one-yard loss time ran out. But the Hornets were flagged for holding on a receiver downfield. So the Panthers got one untimed play from the Bethel 39. Nichols’ pass fell incomplete, however, and, this time, the Hornets were able to celebrate for sure.

O’Neal finished with 87 yards rushing on 13 carries. Thomas added 76 stripes on just four totes.

But it was a defensive play by Thomas that enabled the Hornets to gain the upper hand initially. The Panthers’ opening possession ended when he made a one-handed interception at the Cabot South 38.

Moments later, O’Neal slashed through the Panthers’ defense on a 36-yard touchdown run to make it 6-0. A low snap sabotaged the extra point attempt.

Cabot answered with a 19-play march that covered 74 hard yards, all on the ground, for a tying score. The Panthers had to convert fourth-down situations on four occasions including a fourth-and-1 at the Bethel 24. On that play, Davis broke through the pile and dashed in for the touchdown.

Dunn and Wyatt Hoyt foiled a two-point try, keeping it 6-6.

And the Panthers left the Hornets just 2:06 until halftime. Impressively, Bethel drove 72-yards in seven plays, sparked by Thomas’ 22-yard keeper. A play later, he sliced his way for 41 yards to the Cabot South 9. O’Neal carried on the next four snaps. On a fourth-and-goal at the 1, Hornets coach Shane Clancy called a timeout with :02 left. O’Neal and the offensive line got it in.

That formula worked on the winning touchdown drive as well, which, as it turned out, was Bryant Blue’s lone offensive series of the second half and third of the game. Thomas converted a fourth-and-2 at the Cabot South 48 with a 6-yard keeper. Later, O’Neal broke for 11 yards to convert a third-and-1 at the 33. At the 13, he got 3 on a third-and-1, setting up his touchdown run two plays later.

BRYANT BLUE 20, CABOT SOUTH 14

Eighth grade

Scoring by quarters

Bryant Blue    6    6    0   8 — 20

Cabot South   0    6    6    0 — 12

Scoring summary

First quarter

BRYANT BLUE — O’Neal 36 run (kick failed), 3:08

Second quarter

CABOT SOUTH — Davis 24 run (run failed), 2:09

BRYANT BLUE — O’Neal 1 run (run failed), 0:00

Third quarter

CABOT SOUTH — Davis 1 run (George pass from Nichols), 1:24

Fourth quarter

BRYANT BLUE — O’Neal 5 run (Dunn pass from Thomas), 1:56

Team stats

                         Bryant Blue   Cabot South

First downs        6                         10

Rushes-yds         19-146               41-153

Passing                0-2-0                 1-3-1

Passing yds        0                          10

Punts-avg.          0-00.0               0-00.0

Fumbles-lost      1-1                      3-1

Penalties-yds      2-15                   2-10

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing: BRYANT BLUE, O’Neal 13-87, Thomas 4-76, Hudson 2-3; CABOT SOUTH, Davis 16-80, Nichols 5-34, Thames 3-12, Rogers 3-9, Crumbly 4-2, Gooden 1-1, George 1-0.

Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT BLUE, Thomas 0-2-0-0; CABOT SOUTH, Nichols 1-3-1-10.

Receiving: CABOT SOUTH, Crumbly 1-10.

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