By Rob Patrick
The Bryant Hornets freshman football team may look like it’s in a hurry this season. For one thing, it may be one of the speediest groups that’s come through the system in a while. And they’ll be arrayed in a spread offense to take maximum advantage of the one-on-one possibilities.
For another, there’s this from head coach Kenny Horn:
“I don’t know exactly how fast we’re going to try to go but we’re going to no-huddle and be up and down the field as quickly as possible.
“We’re still questioning what we’re going to do up front,” he allowed. “Though we’re a little worried there, we’re going to see if we might be able to remedy some of that. We’re going to try to be throwing the ball as much as possible. We’ll try to be in empty sets and throwing as fast as we can.”
The Hornets open the season tonight against the Lake Hamilton Wolves, an serious rival in the old two-division days of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference. An eighth-grade game between Lake Hamilton and the Bryant Blue Hornets of Bethel Middle School will get things started at 5:30 p.m., with the freshmen teams taking the field around 7.
“Lake Hamilton’s an old nemesis,” Horn acknowledged. “They’re going to be good. They’re going to be coached up. They’ve got some guys that are pretty fast.
“We’ve kind of got two rivalry games, at least in junior high, with them and Benton,” he noted. “The kids buy into that. It’s a big deal.”
The high-speed offense, Horn assured, “is more about our skill people than it is our line. We’ve four or five guys out there that are pretty fast. They can all catch the ball pretty well and we’re going to try to take advantage of that, vertically. And a lot of it’s horizontal, little quick-game stuff. We’re going to throw it short when we can, get the ball in those guys’ hands and let them go from there.”
Brandon Warner will be the trigger man at quarterback. The speedsters include running back Brushawn Hunter and wide receivers Jacob Gorham, Ben Bruick and Jason Hastings and inside receivers Mitchell Reeves and K.J. Hill.
“We’re going to throw Mar’Kevius Nelson in there at running back some,” Horn said. “He’s fast and can run and catch.
“When we put a big (short-yardage) package in, we’re going to replace our A with (defensive end) Hunter Fugitt or (linebacker) Brendon Young to give us some size.
“We’re going to use K.J. at quarterback too,” the coach added. “He’s going to be a do-it-all guy for us and he’s pretty good right there. We’ll have a package with him and Brushawn and Mar’Kevius. That’s three guys that are 4.6 (in the 40). For junior high, that’s fast. So maybe we can cause a little confusion and get those guys to the edge.”
Clearing the way for them on the o-line will be Zack McConnell is at center, Caleb Chaffin at left tackle, and Andrew McBride at right tackle. Caleb McElyea, Tanner Neal and Chad Adams are working as guards.
“Austin Fisher is a little undersized but he’s very good with the who-to’s and the how-to’s,” Horn added.
“Ryan Hall may mix in there at the offensive tackle spot too.
“We have the potential to have a pretty good line,” he noted.
On the other side of the ball, the coach said, “I think we’re going to be okay defensively because we’re pretty fast there too. Our skill guys at those spots can run well. We feel like they’re pretty big — a couple may be a little undersized but they make up for it with speed.
“I really like our defensive line,” he added. “Right now, early on, I feel like it’s going to be good for us. I think it’s going to be able to slow some guys down and let those linebackers we’ve got really run. That’s what we’re looking for there.”
Fugitt and Rashaan Jones will man the ends on that line. Inside Austin Trusty, Devin Kelly, Drew Allen and Hall will all rotate in at the tackles. Young will be in the middle at linebacker with Kyle Lovelace on the weakside or “will” and Matt Shiew on the strongside or “sam”.
“I’m going to use Conner Chapdelaine a little bit too,” Horn mentioned regarding the linebacker spots.
“In the secondary, we’re going to use Mar’Kevius Nelson at corner, Drew Tipton at corner, Ty Harris at corner, K.J. Hill, Brushawn Hunter and Ben Bruick at safety,” he said. “I know a lot of those are the same names (as on offense) but we’re able to two platoon. We’re only going to have a couple of guys that are going to see a lot of time on both sides of the ball.
“Like I said, I think those guys are pretty fast so we’re going to try to utilize that on the both sides of the ball and see what we come up with,” continued the coach.
Hill will punt and Alex Denker will handle placements following in the footsteps of his older brothers Jace, now a senior, and Bryce, a sophomore.
“We don’t really have a true punter,” Horn said. “So we’re going to try to put our athletes out there in space and see if we can’t maybe rugby-style it and maybe get to the edge every now and then.
“Alex is Denker part three, I guess,” he quipped. “He can kick it. Obviously, he doesn’t have the leg strength right now that Jace did in ninth grade but he’s very good on PAT’s and I think he’s probably good from about 30 in on field goal attempts. We’re going to try to utilize that too. We’ve been pretty fortunate in the last few years to have a weapon like that. In junior high, that’s a big weapon.”
Looking at the race in the current Central Arkansas Conference, Horn stated, “We’re trying to win it. We feel like we’ve got as much right as anybody. We feel like we’re as good as anybody.”