CONWAY — Scoring on offense, defense and special teams, the Bryant Hornets freshman team improved to 4-1 on the season and 3-1 in Central Arkansas Junior High Conference play with a 29-3 win over the Conway Blue Wampus Cats on Thursday.
Jaylon Dickson had a pick-6 to help the Hornets to a 22-3 halftime lead. Then, to open the second half, Andrew Hayes wove his way through the Conway Blue kickoff coverage on a 78-yard touchdown return.
The Hornets ran just 12 plays on offense in the first half but two of those were touchdown runs of 6 and 1 yards, respectively, by quarterback Randy Thomas.
The Wampus Cats had just two possessions in the second half as the Hornets forced a punt and Hayes intercepted a pass. Playing reserves on offense, Bryant ate up clock. Keethan Hudson rushed for a game-high 70 yards on seven carries in just the second half with quarterback Hunter Ulmer racking up 49 yards on four attempts as Bryant ate up the final 5:32 by driving from its own 6 to the Conway Blue 4. Once there, Ulmer took a knee three times to close out the victory.
The Bryant defense held the Cats to 33 yards rushing in the first half but quarterback James Hicks hit 4 of 8 passes for 31 yards by intermission.
Conway Blue’s opening series was thwarted when Bryant defensive linemen Patrick Karp and Josh Salguerio stuffed a third-and-2 run for no gain. A short punt and K.J. Terry’s return gave the Hornets possession in Conway territory at the 48.
Picking up where he left off the previous week when he rushed for 199 yards and passed for 106, Thomas carried five times during Bryant’s first series. He started it with a 15-yard dash and ended it with a 9-yard run for the touchdown. Along the way, Tyler O’Neal contributed a 6-yard run.
After the kickoff, Conway Blue was pinned at its own 18. On the first play, Hicks went to the air. His receiver fell down but got a hand on the ball only to tip it. Dickson picked it off in full stride and scored untouched. Thomas ran in the two-point conversion and it was 14-0 with 2:34 still to play in the first quarter.
Conway followed up with a long drive sparked by a 15-yard run from Oliver Alvares and an 11-yard pass from Hicks to Nick Tufu. Once the Cats reached the Bryant 25, however, an illegal block pushed them back into a first-and-19 at the 34.
Three incomplete passes followed and they were facing a fourth-and-19. After O’Neal had pressured Hicks on his third-down pass, Salguerio applied it on fourth down. The pass fell incomplete but the Wampus Cats got a reprieve when a roughing the passer penalty was assessed.
Jakob Neel pounded Alveres for a loss on first down at the Bryant 19 but Hicks found Darius Washington for a 12-yard completion to the 9. But back-to-back stops by Karp and a third-down tackle for no gain by Blaise Smith forced a field goal attempt by Tyler Sellers.
His first attempt from 20 yards was good but negated by a procedure penalty. His second try from 25 yards was blocked by Hayes but negated by another procedure penalty. Given a third try, this time from 30 yards out, Sellers just got his kick away, under the outstretched arms of Hayes and got it through the uprights for Conway’s only points of the night with 3:09 left in the half.
With O’Neal and Thomas trading totes, the Hornets dashed 52 yards for another score. A strong kickoff return by Josh Robinson put them in position for the drive. O’Neal followed up with a 12-yard burst on first down then Thomas kept for 13.
Later, O’Neal broke another 12-yard run to get to the 1. From there, Thomas sneaked it in.
Out of the swinging gate, Dickson ran in a two-point conversion and, with 1:31 left in the half, Bryant led 22-3.
After Hayes returned the second-half kickoff for points, Alveres picked up a first down with a 17-yard rumble but the next two plays were stuffed. Alveres ran into Karp and Wyatt Hoyt then Hicks’ throw to Tufu was stopped for 1 yard on a nice open-field tackle by Terry.
A deep pass on third down fell incomplete and the Cats punted to Bryant.
The Hornets, behind the running of Hudson and Coby Greiner, drove to the Conway 37 but a couple of lost-yardage plays forced a punt.
Conway put together a drive to the Bryant 2, converting a fourth-and-1 on a run by Freddy Hernandez. But, once they got to the 20, the Cats could get no further. A first-down run was stopped for no gain by Alex White; a second-down run got nothing thanks to Michael Chatmon. On third down, Hicks’ pass was dropped near the goal line. His fourth down pass was picked off by Hayes with 5:32 left.
The Wampus Cats never got the ball back after that. The Hornets only had one third-down play in the final drive. It was converted on an 18-yard dash by Hudson to the 4.
The Hornets are set to play at Little Rock Catholic’s on-campus field next Wednesday, Oct. 7. The game was moved from Thursday, Oct. 8, due to an alumni dinner at the school. Bryant fans may want to take lawn chairs because there’s limited seating in the bleachers on the home sideline.