Conway White serves early notice, Hornets respond with rout
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By Rob Patrick
CONWAY — There’s nothing like a punch in the nose to get your attention.
On Thursday, Sept. 17, Conway White and speedy running back Brandon Cox provided the proverbial shot to the schnoz of the Bryant Hornets freshman team when, on the very first play of their game at Centennial Bank Field in John McConnell Stadium, he sprinted 65 yards for a touchdown.
With Connor Prout’s extra point, the game was less than 20 seconds old and the Hornets found themselves trailing 7-0.
But it wound up being a wake-up call for the Bryant defense which didn’t allow another score all night as the Hornets soared to a 35-7 victory in the battle of unbeaten teams.[more]
Such was the Bryant defense that Cox carried seven more times with a net of minus-2 yards, finishing with 63 yards on eight carries. Bryant middle linebacker Ian Shuttleworth, in particular, seemed to be in Cox’s kitchen time after time. Take away that 65-yard play and the Cats managed just 51 yards of total offense. And when Aronn Bell returned his second interception of the game 43 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the defense had matched the Conway scoring.
It was a welcome sight for Hornets head coach Kenny Horn and his staff.
“We’ve talked about defense three weeks in a row, haven’t we?” he noted after the game. “When that (opening touchdown run) happened, I didn’t know what to think. I really didn’t. I thought, ‘Well, here we go again.’ But, you know what? Our guys responded. They’ve got a very good running back and I wasn’t sure we could tackle him. But we played a heck of a game.
“Ian Shuttleworth struggled the first couple of games but I tell you, tonight, he looked like a linebacker,” the coach continued. “He just read his keys this week. It’s unbelievable. You listen to your coach now and then, read your keys and look what happens. And he did. He read his keys all night, right place, right time, every time.
“And, offensively, we just do what we do,” Horn added. “The offensive line played a lot better. There were a few times when we let down and they got through but for the most part, we did okay. We threw and caught well, like always.”
The Hornets’ offense put up 28 points against a Conway defense that boasted a big, tough front four.
And it could’ve been worse. The Hornets had an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown by Hayden Daniel negated by a penalty late in the first half then had a second-half drive end at the Conway 14 when a keeper by quarterback Hayden Lessenberry came up a yard short on fourth down.
But Lessenberry threw for three touchdowns, completing 10 of 13 passes for 181 yards. Jalen Bell picked up 60 hard yards on 15 rushes including a 14-yard TD jaunt.
Actually, the Hornets struck just as quickly as Conway did. On the kickoff after Cox’s run, Jalen Bell nearly broke it all the way. His 55-yard return reached the Conway 28. After a delay penalty, Lessenberry went deep to Daniel for a 33-yard TD toss. Josh Lowery added the extra point and 24 seconds after Conway had taken the lead, the game was tied.
Daniel Richards and Shuttleworth took turns dropping Bell for losses to start Conway’s subsequent possession and the Cats had to punt. The Hornets drove 75 yards in seven plays but mostly on one, a 67-yard completion from Lessenberry to Devon Sears who was rolled out of bounds at the Conway 8.
On first down from there, however, Lessenberry was sacked by Colten Swindle for a 12-yard loss. After an incompletion, Lessenberry kept for 7 yards to set up a fourth-and-goal from the 13. Lessenberry rolled left and found Richards in the end zone for a clutch touchdown that put the Hornets ahead to stay and ripped momentum away from the Wampus Cats.
In turn, Conway failed to make a first down. Cox carried twice and both times Shuttleworth brought him down for losses including a 2-yard setback that spoiled a third-and-2 play.
Conway punted Bryant back to its 30 and the offense went to work again. Aided by a face-mask penalty that converted a third-and-3, the Hornets drove to the Conway 39 where, on fourth-and-1, the Cats jumped offsides when Lessenberry varied the count. With a new set of downs, Lessenberry kept for 13 yards then threw to Daniel for another 7 to the 14. From there, Jalen Bell slashed for the touchdown that, with Lowery’s kick, made it 21-7.
In turn, Conway finally added its second first down of the game but, on second-and-5 from the Bryant 40, Cox was dropped for another loss by Aronn Bell, Richards and Jared Koon.
On third down, the Cats tried to set up a screen and completed the pass only to have Shuttleworth and Cortez Williams stop it for no gain, forcing a punt.
Daniel’s scintillating return followed but when the penalty pushed the Hornets back to the 9, they ran out the clock and took their 14-point advantage into the half.
The teams traded punts to start the second half, then Bryant started on a time-consuming march, all on the ground, from its 17 to the Conway 23. Lessenberry provided 27 yards of that on a keeper. But a lateral pass cost the Hornets 2 yards but, if not for the hustling Jalen Bell, it could’ve cost them possession.
On second down, Bell was dropped for a 3-yard loss by Conway’s Josh Hillis, but Lessenberry came back with a 13-yard pass to Aronn Bell to set up a fourth-and-2 at the 15. Lessenberry was stopped a yard short, however, and Conway took over.
Two plays later, Aronn Bell made his first interception, returning to the Conway 31. Three plays later, the Hornets faced a fourth-and-9 from the 30. Lessenberry rolled left and put one up into the end zone where three receivers and three defenders occupied the left side. Daniel won the jump ball for Bryant and, with 6:01 to play, the Hornets led 28-7.
Conway’s next possession ended when Aronn Bell stepped in front of a pass from quarterback Tim Boyd and returned it 43 yards for the touchdown that put the finishing touches on the win.
A sack by Hayden Stewart and Tyler Hayden on Boyd proved to be too much for them to overcome and, after a punt, Horn started getting players into the game. Patrick Murray broke an 18-yard run that helped the Hornets eat up all but 22 seconds of the final 2:40.
Now 3-0, the Hornets open play in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference at home against Lake Hamilton on Thursday, Sept. 24.
“The championship always seems to go through Bryant or Lake Hamilton,” Horn noted. “We’ll take a look at them on film and see what we can do.”
JUNIOR HORNETS 35, JUNIOR WAMPUS CATS 7
Score by quarter
Bryant 14 7 0 14 — 35
Conway White 7 0 0 0 — 7
CONWAY WHITE — Cox 65 run (Prout kick), 7:42
BRYANT — Daniel 33 pass from Lessenberry (Lowery kick), 7:18
BRYANT — Richards 13 pass from Lessenberry (Lowery kick), 1:26
BRYANT — J.Bell 14 run (Lowery kick), 3:58
BRYANT — Daniel 30 pass from Lessenberry (Lowery kick), 6:01
BRYANT — A.Bell 43 interception return (Lowery kick), 4:15
Bryant Conway White
First downs 11 4
Rushes-yds 27-126 18-89
Passing 10-13-0 4-9-2
Passing-yds 181 27
Punts-avg. 1-24.0 5-27.2
Fumbles-lost 4-1 0-0
Penalties-yds 5-30 2-20
Rushing: BRYANT, J.Bell 15-60, Lessenberry 6-36, Murray 3-22, Powell 1-6, Daniel 1-4, Huckabey 2-(-2); CONWAY WHITE, Cox 8-63, Boyd 6-20, Nance 3-9, Smith 1-(-3).
Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT, Lessenberry 10-13-0-181; CONWAY WHITE, Boyd 4-9-2-27.
Receiving: BRYANT, Daniel 4-71, Sears 2-74, A.Bell 2-16, Richards 1-13, Wilson 1-7; CONWAY WHITE, Prout 3-19, Cox 1-8.