Photos by Kevin Nagle
The Bryant Blue Hornets eighth grade team of Bethel Middle School ran four on offense and had three touchdowns in their 2014 season debut Tuesday night at Bryant Stadium. Three more snaps produced a fourth score as they overwhelmed the overmatched Immaculate Conception Falcons of North Little Rock.
The 24-0 halftime score led to a running clock in the second half in which each team had one possession. Everybody got into the game for the Hornets.
The Falcons scored on the last play of the game to make it 24-6.
“Better to be 1-0 than 0-1,” stated Bethel coach Shane Clancy. “I was proud of our kids. They played hard all night. The ones took care of business. The twos got in there and took care of business.”
Everybody played for Immaculate Conception as well. But then, they only suited up 20 players or so and pretty much played the same bunch against the Bethel eighth grade team as played against the two 20-minute halves against the seventh grade team earlier in the evening.
And Bryant athletic trainer Brent Phillips wound up spending a lot of time on the I.C. sideline. By the time the eighth grade game was over, five Falcons were sidelined with injuries.
The Falcons got the ball first and after an initial game of 4 yards by running back Nicholas Gonzalez, they went backwards as the Hornets’ Sam Perryman made consecutive stops for losses, forcing a punt.
The Hornets got the ball for their first offensive snap at their own 49. Running back Keethan Hudson took a handoff from quarterback Randy Thomas and sprinted 51 yards for a touchdown.
Perryman teamed with Hudson then Patrick Karp and Wyatt Hoyt combined on consecutive lost-yardage plays on the Falcons’ second series. Thomas returned the punt 33 yards for a touchdown but an illegal block negated the last 7 yards of the jaunt.
From the 17, however, it took two plays for the Hornets to get back to the end zone. They lost 3 yards on the first snap but, from the 20, Tyler O’Neal broke free on a touchdown run that made it 12-0 with just under a minute left in the first quarter.
The Falcons went three and out again with Karp making another stop for a loss. The subsequent punt rolled dead but, on the first snap, Thomas passed to Hunter Ulmer who turned it into a 67-yard touchdown, making it 18-0 with 5:58 left in the half.
The Hornets got the ball back on the first snap of Immaculate Conception’s next possession. Christian Sartin claimed the loose ball at the Falcons’ 33. Cody Conrad dashed for 21 yards then covered the last 12 on the next play to make it 24-0 with 4:19 left in the half.
Josh Stevens was credited with a tackle for a loss as the North Little Rock team was unable to move the ball again. On the final play of the half, the Falcons punted. The short kick was up for grabs as a Hornet player touched the ball but they were able to retain possession as time ran out.
“We only had a few bad snaps and one mental error right before halftime on the punt return but, other than that, I was really pleased with our kids,” Clancy said. “It was a tough week last week. I was out all week (due to family illness resulting in hospitalization) and I was really proud of my assistant coaches and the kids, the way they handled it and got prepared. They came out and played hard and got the reward of winning tonight.”
The Falcons’ touchdown came on a 5-yard run by Gonzalez, capping off a seven-play, 55-yard drive that was nearly stalled when Bethel’s Hunter Pruitt made a tackle for loss on first and goal from the 9.
The Hornets are scheduled to play another member of the Little Rock Parochial League, the Holy Souls Wabbits, in their next game on Thursday, Sept. 11.