Photos by Kevin Nagle
Almost every time the Cabot South Panthers’ eighth grade team needed a big play against the Bryant White Hornets of Bryant Middle School, they led their quarterback Lyndon Nichols handle it. And, at least in the first half, he came through just about every time.
Twice on fourth down and three times on third down, Nichols either picked up a first down or scored as the Panthers built an 20-0 lead at the half. In the classic Cabot dead-T offense, they ran 29 plays on offense in the first half while Bryant White snapped the ball just five times.
That’s partly because the Hornets turned the ball over on two of those snaps. They also had a 71-yard kickoff return for a touchdown negated by an illegal block in the back. And that happened with the Cabot South lead was just 6-0.
The Hornets played much better in the second half on both sides of the ball but could only find paydirt once, on a 61-yard gallop by quarterback Jesse Windemaker. Cabot South held on for an 20-6 win in the season-opener for both teams.
Nichols scored all three Panthers’ touchdowns. The first, a 7-yard run, capped off a 47-yard trudge that used up 11 plays and all but 2:30 of the first quarter. Bryant didn’t give it up easily. The Panthers had to converted two third-down situations and, at the Hornets’ 30, a fourth-and-6. Nichols got 9 on the play.
Bryant White stopped the try for two points with Brandon Jett and Jakob Neel dragging down Cabot’s Hunter Ray Williams.
After Andrew Hayes’ 77-yard return on the ensuing kickoff was cut in half by the penalty, the Hornets still had good field position at the Cabot South 40. But, on the first play, Windemaker and running back Grant Botti missed connections on a handoff and Cabot South’s Zack Morris recovered.
Fourteen plays later, Nichols scored on a sneak from the 1. Along the way, he converted a fourth-and-7 from the Cabot South 43 with a 10-yard run. Three plays later, running back Bradley Morales picked up 3 yards on a fourth-and-2 from the Bryant 39. Nichols converted a third-and-9, moments later, with a 19-yard burst.
Again, the Panthers were unable to tack on the two-point conversion thanks to a nice play by Bryant defensive lineman Josh Salguerio.
So the Hornets got their second possession of the game with just 2:45 left in the half. And, on a third down, Cabot South’s Gage Weaver made an interception.
It looked like Bryant White might keep them from scoring before the half with just over a minute left. The Panthers faced a third-and-10 at the Bryant 32. But, once again, Nichols got loose and scored with :26.4 remaining in the half. Morales got into the end zone on the conversion this time, making it 20-0.
The Hornets got to run their sixth play of the game to start the second half. On their seventh, Windemaker set sail on his long touchdown run.
A pass attempt for a two-point conversion was broken up.
And the Bryant White defense perked up after that. Cabot South picked up a first down but Salguerio and Alex White combined on a stop for no gain. A play later, Ty Dawson sniffed out a reverse and dropped tight end Dalton Crumby for a loss.
That set up a fourth-and-8 from the Bryant 42. Guess who ran it? Yes, but this time, the Hornets tracked down Nichols with Hayes and Jett hauling him down short of the first down.
The Hornets drove to Cabot’s 39 but, after a 13-yard run, Windemaker was shaken up. He came out of the game for a play and the Hornets lost 4 yards. He came back and had to fall on a bad snap for another loss. His third-down run picked up 8 yards but that was short of a new set of downs. A fourth-down pass went off the fingertips of Hayes and Cabot South took over.
Again the defense stepped up. Dawson made a stop for a loss that the Panthers overcame to pick up a first down. But then White and Salguerio combined on another loss. Jett made a great open-field tackle on the edge to hold Crumbly to 2 yards. On third down, Nichols was dropped for a loss of 3 by Botti. On fourth down, Brady Newman sacked Nichols for a loss.
With just 3:16 left in the game, however, the Hornets had to score in a hurry and try to get an onside kick. They drove to the 6 with Windemaker slashing for runs of 11, 14 and 8 yards. But he was shaken up again on a 1-yard keeper and his back-up Coby Greiner was injured on the next snap.
Bad snaps undermined the next three plays with Ryan Lessenberry in the game at quarterback and time ran out on the Hornets.
Windemaker finished with 117 yards rushing on 11 attempts. The Hornets, after being held to minus-3 yards rushing in the first half, wound up with 108 for the game.
Cabot South used 11 different ball carriers to pile up 171 yards on the ground, led by Nichols’ 86 yards on 13 rushes.
Bryant White will try to get past the other Cabot team, Cabot North, next Thursday.
CABOT SOUTH 20, BRYANT WHITE 6
Score by quarters
Cabot South 6 14 0 0 — 20
Bryant White0 0 6 0 — 6
CABOT SOUTH — Nichols 7 run (run failed), 2:30
CABOT SOUTH — Nichols 1 run (run failed), 2:57
CABOT SOUTH — Nichols 32 run (Morales run), 0:26.4
BRYANT WHITE — Windemaker 61 run (pass failed), 5:50
First downs 11 4
Rushes-yards 43-171 19-108
Passing 0-0-0 1-5-1
Passing yards 0 8
Fumbles-lost 1-0 5-1
Penalties-yds 1-5 2-11
Rushing: BRYANT, Windemaker 11-117, Botti 3-5, Greiner 2-(-3), Lessenberry 3-(-11); CABOT SOUTH, Nichols 13-86, Morales 7-18, Davis 5-17, HR.Williams 4-14, Rogers 2-9, Harper 3-9, Thames 1-8, George 4-7, Keahl 1-4, Crumby 2-0, Gooden 1-(-1).
Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT WHITE, Windemaker 1-5-1-8.
Receiving: BRYANT WHITE, Jett 1-8.