Calley: ‘Bentonville better than we thought’

By Rob Patrick

After a few days in which to review the game and ponder his team’s season-ending 38-7 loss to top-ranked and unbeaten Bentonville in the quarterfinals of the Class 7A State playoffs, Bryant Hornets head coach Paul Calley admitted Tuesday, “Honestly, I couldn’t watch it.”

Bentonville, he said, was even better[more] than he and his staff anticipated.

“Watching them on (scouting) film, then seeing them in person, there was no comparison,” Calley commented. “I was very surprised at their size after looking at their roster then seeing them in person and how big they were, how physical they were, how well they ran. They had big receivers and we had good coverage on them several times but they still threw it and caught it. We couldn’t get much pressure on the quarterback and when we did stop the run, they were a good passing team.

“I felt like we looked like a junior high team compared to them size-wise,” he reiterated. “That’s what I felt like when I saw them. I was kind of in awe myself.”

Calley said he took full responsibility for the loss.

“There were a lot of people upset in the stands Friday night,” he acknowledged, “not any more upset than me, our coaches or our kids. We wanted to make a better showing than we did. Like I told the kids at halftime, we’re not getting beat on purpose. We’re doing everything we know, everything we can.

“It’s difficult. Talking to (Bentonville’s) Coach (Barry) Lunney before the game, he said, a conference champion should not be playing a conference champion in the second round. That’s tough. They’re undefeated for a reason.”

Any other year, the Hornets would’ve been a No. 3 seed instead of a No. 4. But because the Arkansas Activities Association tried to accommodate the travel concerns of Van Buren, Russellville and West Memphis, those teams played in leagues that were not in the same division as the playoffs they would be competing in. West Memphis, after running roughshod through the 6A-East (the weaker of the two Class 6A conferences) was awarded the No. 1 seed from the Central over tri-champions Conway, Cabot and Bryant who were pushed down to the 2, 3 and 4 seeds.

Still, Calley was talking about his team “shocking the world one more time” before the game, referring to the Hornets’ mid-season win over previously unbeaten Conway.

“I knew we would have to play very well to stay with them,” he said afterwards. “We’d have to play perfect to beat them. I never said that to the kids.

“And we could’ve brow-beaten (the Hornet players) and hammered them and been on them all week,” he continued. “We may have stayed in the game a little longer but I don’t think we could’ve won. And I didn’t want to take away from our seniors. I didn’t want to end it that way. But I probably could’ve done more as a coach to get them ready. But they’d done a good job all year of being prepared and being ready without having to brow-beat them and hammer them. We didn’t have a lot of contact. At this point in the season, it’s kind of pointless to beat each other up still.”

Bryant’s trouble, Calley said, was evident “from the start of the game.”

Bentonville’s opening kickoff sailed into the end zone for a touchback, one of the few times that’s happened against the Hornets this year. And it went a long ways to negating a key Bryant asset all season, special teams play.

“I thought the wind had settled,” Calley recalled. “I didn’t think the wind was blowing as hard as it was. Apparently down on the field, it had settled but not up higher because I had never seen their kicker kickoff like that. Everything starts for us with our kickoff return. It has all year. Our kickoff returns have always ignited us. They kick it in the end zone and I knew we had a problem. I knew the wind was stronger.

“Our special teams never really figured in and that’s something that we have relied on all year to keep us in ballgames and win ballgames for us,” he emphasized. “We just never got to the point where they would help us.”

The Hornets then went three-and-out on their first two possessions.

“Our first series, we found out a lot of things,” Calley said. “Our receivers couldn’t block their outside linebackers. My offensive tackles told me that they couldn’t block the defensive tackles. I knew then we were going to have trouble pass protecting. I knew the zone scheme was out but our whole game plan all year, that’s us. That’s what we do.

“We tried to stick with it, tried not to panic and could never change the field position,” he continued. “We weren’t as focused as I’d seen us be. I think after the first series, we were a little intimidated offensively, the whole offense, not just one or two people. We started making some mental mistakes and things you can’t do against a good football team.

“They’d been playing a 3-4 (defense) but they ended up playing what I would call a 5-3, where they’re going to play one of the safeties down in the box, stack the linebackers, which was a good move on their part. I hadn’t seen them do it, didn’t expect them to change for us and they did. It gave them numbers at the point of attack when we tried to run the ball.”

With short fields to work with, Bentonville quickly compiled a 17-0 lead.

“We went to the trick plays just to try to get off our end and give us a chance,” Calley explained. “We hit the one trick play and we get down there.”

Karon Dismuke took the snap at quarterback and pitched to quarterback Hayden Lessenberry on reverse action and Lessenberry threw deep to Sawyer Nichols for 35 yards to the Bentonville 39. It was Bryant’s initial first down. A run by Dismuke moved it up to the 37 but a second-down play lost yardage and third down was an incomplete pass, making it fourth-and-10.

“We run what we think are three good plays and we lose yards,” Calley recounted. “It’s fourth down and there are people in the stands screaming at me (to go for it). But I wanted to give our kids a chance. We run three of the best plays we’ve got and we get negative yards, chances are on fourth down we’re not going to convert and I didn’t want to give the ball back to them (in good field position) once we’d gotten out of the hole.

“Looking back on it, it may not have been a very smart move but I didn’t want to take us out of it,” he added. “That could’ve taken us completely out of the game if we had gone for it right there and not gotten it.”

As it was, however, even after punting Bentonville back to its 19, the Tigers drove the length of the field to make it 24-0, four scores on four possessions.

They added touchdowns on the first two series of the second half and wound up doing what they’d done against most of their 10 other opponents including Texarkana, Texas and O’Fallen, Mo., a highly-regarded team from the St. Louis area.

The loss ended the BHS careers of over 30 seniors. During the season, Calley often mentioned his affection for the group. They were a part of 25 wins in their three seasons, the most of any class at Bryant.


2010, final unofficial through 12 games

Score by quarters

Opponent 52 48 68 30 7 3 — 208

BRYANT 98 111 79 58 7 7 — 348

Team stats

Oppt. Bryant

First downs 196 195

Rushes-yds 417-1802 437-2157

Passing 164-300-13 109-176-5

Passing yards 1841 1505

Fumbles-lost 27-10 16-7

Penalties-yds 82-699 62-511


Rushing: Clark 135-780, Dismuke 84-640, J.Powell 63-271, Pritchett 33-192, J.Bell 46-212, Tolbert 3-63, Hampton 5-13, Lessenberry 58-9, Harris 4-9, Henson 3-0, Davidson 2-0, Smith 1-(-2), A.Powell 1-(-2).

Passing (C-A-I-Y): Lessenberry 102-153-4-1287 (6 TDs), Davidson 10-20-1-218 (4 TDs), Dismuke 0-2-0-0.

Receiving: Nichols 33-586, Winfrey 21-287, Garrett 20-199, Clark 12-135, Elmore 6-68, Daniel 5-41, J.Bell 4-57, Tolbert 2-47, Hampton 1-14, Harris 1-13, Pritchett 1-10, Lecamu 1-3, Dismuke 1-0.

Scoring: Clark 66 (10 td-r, 1 td-rec), Denker 56 (38 of 42 conv., 6 fg {20, 35, 32, 44, 19, 47}), Lessenberry 36 (6 td-r), Dismuke 30 (5 td-r), Powell 30 (5 td-r), Hampton 30 (4 td-r, 1 td-fum.ret.), Winfrey 24 (3 td-rec, 1 ko return), Tolbert 18 (1 td-r, 2 td-rec), Nichols 18 (3 td-rec), J.Bell 18 (2 td-r, 1 td-rec), Pritchett 6 (1 td-r), Harris 6 (1 td-fumble rec), Mayall 6 (1 td-int.ret), Lowery 4 (4 of 4 conv.)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!