CABOT — Things didn’t start out too well for the Bryant White Hornets eighth grade team of Bryant Middle School on Thursday night. On the very first play from scrimmage, the Cabot South Panthers eighth graders sacked Bryant quarterback Cory Nichols for a loss of 9.
The Hornets had to punt, and the Panthers drove 74 yards in seven plays to take a 6-0.
A penalty on the kickoff return had Bryant White 78 yards from an answering score but, after Chris Gannaway slashed for 7 yards, Nichols fired a deep pass towards Jordan Knox who hauled it in for a 71-yard touchdown that, with Gunner Givens’ extra point kick, gave the Hornets the lead.
They would not trail again as they went on to forge a 20-6 win that improved their season record to 6-1 going into a trip to Hot Springs Lakeside next Thursday.
Martavian Earl had a pair of touchdown runs including the game-clinching 7-yard burst with 1:28 left to play. The Hornets accumulated 254 yards of offense.
Meanwhile, the Bryant White defense asserted itself. Cabot South never got any closer to scoring that the Hornets’ 31-yard line.
“I thought we played well,” said Hornets coach Russell Wortham. “Defense came up big when we needed to and forced them to punt. Our kicking game was strong as well as our offense. It is always a plus to be able to play well in all 3 phases of the game.
“Cory Nichols came to play and completed passes that changed the game,” he added. “Our running game was strong with Chris Gannaway and Martavian Earl carrying the ball. Our O-line and D-line deserve a lot of credit for making key blocks and containing their run game.”
Trying to answer Bryant White’s first score, Cabot South drove to the Hornets’ 43 behind the running of brawny fullback Caden Mimms. But a holding penalty pushed the Panthers back and, dependent so much on their running game, they were unable to make up a second and 20.
They punted to the Hornets but, on the first play of Bryant White’s series, a fumble occurred and Mimms recovered for the Panthers at the Hornets’ 33.
Mimms picked up 2 yards to the 31 then the Panthers started going backwards. Bryant White’s Joshua Moore dropped running back Chris Roe for a 5-yard loss then Gave Allen pulled down running back Cole Flynn for another five-yard loss.
Once again, the Panthers were punting to the Hornets.
Bryant White responded with a dash down the field, covering 81 yards in four plays. Earl started the march with a 30-yard gallop. Nichols then connected with Jaylon Brown for 26 yards to the Cabot South 20. Earl dashed to the 1 then scored from there on the next play to make it 13-6.
A bad snap on the extra-point attempt forced holding Triston Kellum to run for it but he was brought down in the backfield.
With just 2:16 left in the half, Cabot South reached the Bryant 44 where a false-start penalty cost them. A play later, Braylen Montgomery tackled Brock Jay for a loss of 4.
The Panthers punted, and Montgomery broke the return for 47 yards back into Panthers’ territory only to fumble at the end of the run. Flynn recovered for Cabot South at the 29 with :09.6 left in the half.
To open the second half, the Panthers drove to the Bryant 38 where, on a first down, Will Cornelius stopped quarterback Ethan Kemp for a two-yard loss. Michael Griffin was brought down for a loss by Montgomery and John Ede.
After the Panthers punted it back to Bryant, the Hornets were knocked off schedule by a holding penalty and, on the first play of the fourth quarter, they were punting it back to the Panthers.
A short kick gave Cabot South possession at the Bryant 39 with 6:51 left to play. Three plays later, the Panthers faced a fourth-and-3 at the Hornets’ 32. Kemp kept only to be denied by Brown and, with 4:32 left, the Hornets took over.
Taking a page from the Cabot playbook, Bryant White ate up over three minutes as they pushed 67 yards for the clincher. Nichols had a 21-yard keeper and, later, appeared to have a big 43-yard burst to the Panthers’ 5. But most of the run was negated by a personal foul penalty on a blow-up downfield block that looked clean as the defender turned into it only to draw the flag.
The Hornets made up for it on the next play when Gannaway sliced through the defense for 17 yards, helped along by a pancake block on the edge from Ivory Gilmore.
Earl dashed to the 7, a 20-yard run, then scored with 1:28 left. Givens added the PAT to set the final score.