The Bryant White Hornets eighth grade football team of Bryant Middle School appeared to be on their way to a touchdown that would clinch a win and an unbeaten 2015 season.
Clinging to a 16-14 lead after the Conway White Wampus Cats used up all but 1:03 of the third quarter to drive for a touchdown that closed the gap, the Hornets responded with a drive from their own 25 to the Conway 16.
But, on a fourth-and-1 there, Bryant’s Ahmad Adams was caught behind the line of scrimmage by Conway’s Parker Prock and tackled for a loss.
With 2:36 remaining in the game, Conway White took over at its 20 and, behind the running of Luke Bailey, drove into Bryant territory. Quarterback Nick McCuin completed a short pass to Prock to get the ball to the 34.
After a Conway timeout with 0:28.3 on the clock, McCuien went to the air again, only to have his deep pass towards Prock broken up by Bryant’s Aaron Morgan. Under pressure from the Hornets, McCuien’s third-down pass was errant. On a fourth-and-3 at the 34 and time running out, McCuien tried to go deep again only to have Arlon Jenkins break it up.
The Hornets took over on downs and, moments later, celebrated their 8-0 season having closed out their sternest test of the season, 16-14.
Their next closest test had been against their future teammates on Bryant Blue of Bethel Middle School, whom they defeated 22-6.
“All I can say is this group really deserved to have a season like they had,” declared the White Hornets’ coach Brad Smotherman. “They really are a good group to be around and they enjoy being around each other. These boys come to work everyday and work hard but still have a lot of fun together.
“I hope they enjoy these memories they have made this year and have a great season next year as ninth graders with the Bethel players too,” he added.
Quarterback Derrick Rose ran for two touchdowns and Adams found the end zone on a pair of two-point conversions for the Hornets. Conway White kicked extra points after their scores, a 17-yard run by Bailey and a 23-yard pass from McCuin to Jvonta Reed.
The Hornets’ first possession of the game reached near midfield before Conway’s Riley White intercepted Rose’s pass.
The Wampus Cats drove to the 45 before, on second-and-10, Bryant’s Peyton Dillon hit McCuin and caused a fumble that running back Darrell Parchman recovered but for a 2-yard loss. McCuin’s third-down pass was broken up by Jenkins and Morgan and the only punt of the game followed.
But the snap went over McCuin’s head. He retrieved it and tried to get a kick away only to have Hudson Trusty block it. Bailey scooped up the ricochet and tried to run for it but was dropped short of the first down by Bryant’s Austin Bailey.
The Hornets took over on downs and took advantage of the short field in three plays, all runs by Rose. He scored from 15 yards out, weaving through the Conway defense.
Adams’ run made it 8-0.
Conway White answered with a 60-yard drive in five plays, starting with a 30-yard bolt by Luke Bailey and ending with his 17-yard burst. The TD was set up by a third-down completion from McCuin to tight end Jeremiah Parks.
Will Hogue kicked the extra point and Bryant’s lead was 8-7.
Adams returned the ensuing kickoff 24 yards to near midfield then broke a 15-yard run from there. Rose sliced for 15 more and, later, got free for 10 to the 1. He scored on the next snap and, again, Adams sprinted in for the conversion to make it 16-7 with 1:28 left in the half.
In the final seconds, Conway threatened again only to have McCuin sacked by Taylor Daniels on a third-down play. On fourth down, McCuin’s pass was intercepted by Morgan at the Bryant 13.
But the Cats got the ball back to start the second half and proceeded to drive for a touchdown despite a lost-yardage play on first down when Catrell Wallace dropped Luke Bailey.
But McCuin scrambled for 13 yards on a third-and-12 to keep the drive alive. He completed a pair of short passes to help get the Cats to the 23 where, on third down, he found Reed for the touchdown.
Again, however, Conway kicked the extra point, leaving Bryant up by 2.
On the next snap, Adams broke loose for 39 yards only to have it called back due to a holding penalty. So, from the 25, the Hornets started over and marched to the 16 before the fumble that sidetracked them only to have the defense make its decisive stand.