By Rob Patrick
PEARCY — Josh Nazario caught a pass in the flat from quarterback Jess Ledbetter and turned it into a 31-yard touchdown play with :41.2 left in the game as the Lake Hamilton Wolves eighth grade team came back from a 26-16 deficit to defeated the Bryant White Hornets of Bryant Middle School, 32-26, in the season opener for both teams Thursday.[more]
In a ping-pong game, turnovers undermined the Bryant White effort. The Hornets turned the ball over on their last three possessions. The first two, both fumbles, came at the end of long Bryant drives deep into Wolves’ territory. The first came at the Lake Hamilton 15. On the second, the Hornets were just 4 yards from a clinching score.
Lake Hamilton turned both into touchdowns including the game-winning 94-yard march. The third, an interception, ended the Hornets’ last-gasp at a comeback with :16.5 left in the game, moments after they’d reached Lake Hamilton territory.
The two teams combined for a whopping 445 yards rushing and 594 yards of total offense.
Bryant’s Mar’Kevius Nelson rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns but Lake Hamilton’s Donnell West piled up 180 yards on 17 totes with a score.
Bryant White put the first points on the board after Conner Chapdelaine returned the opening kickoff 68 yards to the Lake Hamilton 4. On two runs, Nelson found paydirt, though a try for 2 failed.
In the end, the difference in the game was conversions. Lake Hamilton tacked on two-point conversions on all four of its touchdowns while Bryant failed to convert three times (thus, the 6 points).
It took Lake Hamilton little time to answer. West’s first carry went for 36 yards with the Hornets’ Ben Bruick saving a touchdown. But, as it turned out, it only delayed it a play as Nazario, who rushed for two scores along with catching the game-winning touchdown pass, broke for the 22-yard touchdown run on the next play.
Bryant White would regain the lead early in the second quarter with a three-play 44-yard drive. The Hornets’ defense had helped negate the team’s first turnover by stopping the Wolves short by a yard on a fourth-and-5 pass from their own 40. That set up the 32-yard touchdown run by K.J. Hill. Quarterback Madison Schrader passed to Bruick for the two-point conversion and Bryant led 14-8.
Lake Hamilton figured to have the lead at the half after it drove for an answering score with :58.7 left. The Wolves converted two third downs along the way including the last one on fullback Caleb Smith’s 1-yard TD dive.
A pass from Jess Ledbetter to Smith gave the Wolves a 16-14 edge.
A short kickoff put the Hornets in position to try to regain the lead before the end of the half. And that’s just what they did. Schrader passed 32 yards to Bruick but, three plays later, Bryant faced a fourth-and-2 at the Lake Hamilton 20. After taking a timeout with :13 showing, Hornets coach Brad Smothermon dug into the bag of tricks. Schrader tossed to Hill who looked downfield to throw, catching the Wolves napping as Hunter Lawhon got free to haul in the 20-yard touchdown pass with 0:08.2 left on the clock.
A run for two failed but Bryant White had a 20-16 lead at the half.
And the Hornets increased the advantage early in the secnd half after causing a fumble on the opening kickoff. Lawhon recovered for Bryant White at the Wolves’ 37. Four straight runs by Nelson covered the territory to the end zone. They included a 19-yard jaunt then a 6-yard scoring run on which he broke three tackles.
Again, however, a conversion attempt failed.
But Bryant led 26-16 and, on the third play of Lake Hamilton’s next drive, another fumble occurred. This time, Drew Tipton recovered for Bryant at the Hornets’ 48.
They reached the Lake Hamilton 22 when, at the end of a run to inside the 20, Nelson was separated from the ball and Lake Hamilton’s Christian Campbell recovered at the 16.
In nine plays, the Wolves scored. Nazario ran it in from 14 yards out then Campbell run in the two-point conversion to cut the Bryant White lead to 26-24.
But the Hornets appeared to be eating up much of the remaining time on a subsequent drive. It was beginning to look like the Hornets offensive line had worn down the Wolves as Nelson wove his way for 28 yards and, later, slashed for 11 to the 6. Hill got to the 4 then appeared to get to the 1 but the ball was knocked loose and Nazario recovered for Lake Hamilton with 2:02 left.
The Bryant White defense appeared to have the Wolves taking the long route in their attempt to forge ahead. But on the fourth play of the possession, West streaked 44 yards into Bryant territory. Jacob Gorham’s tackle saved a touchdown.
With time ticking away, Hill and J.C. Newborn crashed in to drop Nazario for a loss to the 31. But, on the next play, Ledbetter found Nazario running a drag route. He rolled down the right sideline, broke a tackle at the Bryant 8 and just barely stayed inbounds before scoring. Ledbetter ran for the conversion to set the final score.
Darquel Grey covered a short kick on the Bryant 45. The Hornets tried to sneak it to Hill on first down. He picked up 8 yards to the Wolves’ 47.
After a timeout with :27 left, Schrader tried to throw down the left side only to have Campbell intercept. On his return, he fumbled but such was the Wolves’ luck on this night, the loose ball was scooped up by lineman D.J. Everhart to sew up the victory.
Bryant White returns to action on Thursday, Sept. 16, at home against Russellville East.
LAKE HAMILTON 32, BRYANT WHITE 26
Eighth grade football
Score by quarters
BRYANT 6 14 6 0 — 26
Lake Hamilton 8 6 0 16 — 32
BRYANT WHITE — Nelson 1 run (run failed), 5:58
LAKE HAMILTON — Nazario 22 run (West run), 5:24
BRYANT WHITE — Hill 32 run (Bruick pass from Schrader), 5:20
LAKE HAMILTON — Smith 1 run (Smith pass from Ledbetter), 0:58.7
BRYANT WHITE — Lawhon 20 pass from Hill (run failed), :08.2
BRYANT WHITE — Nelson 6 run (run failed), 5:42
LAKE HAMILTON — Nazario 14 run (Campbell run), 4:22
LAKE HAMILTON — Nazario 31 pass from Ledbetter (Ledbetter run), 0:41.2
First downs 12 12
Rushes-yds 25-182 30-263
Passing 6-9-2 4-5-0
Passing yds 77 72
Punts-avg. 0-00.0 0-00.0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-2
Penalties-yards 1-5 1-5
Rushing: BRYANT WHITE, Nelson 14-111, Hill 9-80, Schrader 1-(-3), Bruick 1-(-6); LAKE HAMILTON, West 17-180, Nazario 9-72, Smith 3-11, Campbell 1-0.
Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT WHITE, Schrader 5-8-2-57, Hill 1-1-0-20; LAKE HAMILTON, Ledbetter 3-4-0-45, Campbell 1-1-0-27.
Receiving: BRYANT WHITE, Bruick 4-51, Lawhon 1-20, Tipton 1-6; LAKE HAMILTON, Nazario 2-14, Smith 1-27.