Photos by Kevin Nagle
Leading by a tenuous 18-13 margin, the Bryant White Hornets eighth grade team of Bryant Middle School looked like they might be on their way to a game-clinching score early in the fourth quarter of their game against the Pulaski Heights Panthers on Tuesday night. They’d reached the Pulaski Heights 37.
But then the ball got loose. The Panthers’ Zachary Williams scooped it up and headed the other way. And the Hornets did well to keep him from scoring. As it was, Williams was brought down 36 yards away from the end zone.
Having scored just moments before to close the gap, the Panthers appeared to have all the momentum. And they went for it. Quarterback Greyson Tackett went back to pass but his throw was intercepted by Bryant’s Brandon Jett, who proceeded to turn the field back over again. From the Hornets’ 29, he trapsed up the sideline before being bowled out of bounds by the last Panther back at the Pulaski Heights 31.
From there, the Hornets drove for a touchdown that made it a two-score lead with just 3:43 left. As it turned out, the 24-13 was the final margin as the Hornets improved to 5-2 on the season going into their finale at home against Benton on Tuesday, Nov. 4.
Jett’s interception was the third of the game for Bryant, the fourth Pulaski Heights turnover in a game that included three turnovers by the Hornets.
Andrew Hayes had a day. The Bryant White receiver/defensive back not only intercepted two passes but he ran one back for a touchdown. He also caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Jesse Windemaker.
The Panthers were driving to start the game, reaching the Bryant 39. But, on a fourth-and-5, Hayes stepped in front of Tackett’s first pass of the game and rolled 68 yards for a touchdown.
Bryant’s two-point conversion attempt was stopped and the Hornets kicked off to the Panthers who used up the rest of the first quarter driving for an answering score. Bryant White’s offense didn’t run a play except for that conversion attempt in the period.
The defense made a bid to stop the Pulaski Heights touchdown drive, forcing a third-and-14 at the Bryant 33 after safety Jake Wright had made a tackle for a loss on a swing pass from Tackett to Zaytron Waits. But the third-down attempt by Tackett was caught by Chris Carvill for just enough yardage to gain the first down.
Running back Seth Watson followed with a 17-yard run to the 2 and, a play later, scored the touchdown from the 1.
An extra point kick gave the Panthers a 7-6 lead.
And when Bryant’s offense finally made its debut, a third-down fumble put the defense back on the spot. Pulaski Heights drove to the Bryant 33 where Tackett and Waits hooked up again only to have Bryant linebacker Jakob Neel stop Waits short of the first down. Neel forced a fumble with a hard hit and pounced on the loose ball himself.
A play later, the Hornets’ offense got untracked when Windemaker skated 67 yards on a keeper. From the 6, however, Bryant White had back-to-back lost-yardage plays. A third-down pass fell incomplete, setting up a fourth-and-goal at the 20. Windemaker looked for Hayes down the right seam and, though he was well covered, the Hornet receiver hauled in the pass around the 5, turned and stepped into the end zone for a touchdown.
Again a two-point try was foiled by the Panthers, leaving it 12-7 with less than a minute left in the half.
Pulaski Heights used the clock well, with sideline passes and timeouts. After driving to midfield, however, Tackett had a pass nearly intercepted by Grant Botti. On the next snap, Hayes made his second pick and the lead held at the half.
To start the third quarter, the Panthers drove to the Bryant White 40. On fourth-and-5, Tackett tried to throw outside only to have Logan Grant tip the ball near the line of scrimmage. It changed the trajectory just enough that the pass fell incomplete.
Bryant took over on downs and Windemaker, who rushed for 103 yards on eight carries, broke a 41-yard scamper to the Pulaski Heights 23. From there, Wright slashed in for the score to increase the margin to 18-7.
But back came the Panthers. Keyed by a 12-yard run on a third down by Waits, they marched to the 31 where, once again, they faced a fourth down. This time, however, Tackett connected with Carvill for a touchdown.
This time, the kick for the extra point fell short, leaving it 18-13 with :43 left in the third quarter.
After the crucial exchange of turnovers, the Hornets put together their clutch touchdown drive, sparked by a 13-yard pass completion from Windemaker to Botti. On the next play, Windemaker lost the ball on a keeper around the left side but it bounced right. The quarterback scooped it back up and got ahead for 6 yards, setting up the 16-yard touchdown strike to Hayes to make it 24-13.
Pulaski Heights still got a couple of chances to cut into the lead. The first one ended when a fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 2:24 left. The Hornets made a bid to run out the clock but the Panthers’ Braylon Coulter yanked the ball away from Botti at the Panthers’ 33 to give his team another chance with 1:08 left.
But the threat ended when Neel sacked Tackett four plays later on the final snap of the game.
BRYANT WHITE 24, PULASKI HEIGHTS 13
Score by quarters
Pulaski Heights 0 7 6 0 — 13
BRYANT WHITE 6 6 6 6 — 24
BRYANT WHITE — Hayes 68 interception return (run failed), 4:42
PULASKI HEIGHTS — Watson 1 run (Chrisman kick), 6:54
BRYANT WHITE — Hayes 20 pass from Windemaker (run failed), 0:44
BRYANT WHITE — Wright 23 run (run failed), 3:38
PULASKI HEIGHTS — Carvill 31 pass from Tackett (kick failed), 0:43
BRYANT WHITE — Hayes 16 pass from Windemaker (pass failed), 3:43
First downs 10 8
Rushes-yds 24-70 16-155
Passing 14-25-3 3-8-0
Passing yds 120 49
Punts-avg 0-00.0 0-00.0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 5-3
Penalties-yds 2-20 4-20
Rushing: BRYANT WHITE, Windemaker 8-103, Wright 3-30, Botti 5-22; PULASKI HEIGHTS, Watson 14-42, Waits 4-28, Coulter 4-12, Tackett 1-(-5), Staab 1-(-7).
Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT WHITE, Windemaker 3-8-0-49; PULASKI HEIGHTS, Tackett 14-24-3-120, Waits 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: BRYANT WHITE, Hayes 2-36, Botti 1-13; PULASKI HEIGHTS, Waits 6-34, Jones 3-24, Carvill 2-45, Staab 2-10, Coulter 1-7.