There were nine turnovers in Thursday night’s season-opening freshman football game between the Bryant Hornets and the Little Rock McClellan Junior Crimson Lions.
First games are like that sometimes.
But the Bryant defense, while forcing three of them, held McClellan to just 105 yards of offense on the way to a shutout. And, on offense, despite six turnovers, the Hornets amassed 305 yards and forged a 16-0 victory.
“We won and that’s what matters most to us,” stated Bryant coach Kenny Horn. “It didn’t look good. But I always tell our kids there’s winners and losers. Tonight, we won.”
Hornets quarterback Randy Thomas rushed for 118 yards on seven carries including a 62-yard touchdown run in the first half. In the second half, Jaylon Dickson took over at signal-caller and rushed for 55 yards on nine tries. But, early in the fourth quarter, Dickson was dropped for a loss and had to come out of the game because his helmet came off. Thomas returned and proceeded to sprint 45 yards on a keeper for another TD.
Dickson threw to Andrew Hayes for the two-point conversion and the final score was on the board with 7:05 still to play.
Meanwhile, the Hornets’ defense held the Lions to just 44 yards of offense on 21 snaps in the first half, with just two first downs. McClellan penetrated Bryant territory three times in the game but couldn’t get inside the 35 until late. A drive to the Bryant 21 with just under five minutes to go ended when John Burton recovered the third Lions fumble.
“Defense played well,” Horn acknowledged. “We bent a little bit but didn’t break. I don’t think we made a whole lot of mistakes.”
On offense, the Hornets lost three fumbles and had three interceptions. And one of each came when they were on the cusp of scoring, inside the McClellan 10.
Thomas was 3 of 13 passing for 32 yards with the third interceptions. Dickson completed his lone pass attempt to Jake Wright for 20 yards.
“They had seven guys in the box, more than we could block running,” Horn said. “When they’ve got seven in the box, you’ve got to throw. We just didn’t execute throwing the football tonight.
“We made a couple of bad decisions and they made a couple of good, athletic plays too,” he said. “It wasn’t all us but we’ve got to make sure we take care of the football. I think if we take care of the football in this game, we probably score a few more touchdowns.”
A fumble on third down ended Bryant’s first possession. The Hornets got the ball back when, on a fourth-and-4 at the Bryant 41, the Lions were stopped short on a running play.
On the next play, Thomas found the edge and raced to the game’s first score. K.J. Terry ran in the two-point conversion and it was 8-0 with 4:50 left in the first quarter.
The Lions went three-and-out. Because McClellan (where the freshmen practice with the high school varsity) hadn’t worked on punting yet, Horn agreed to let them move the ball downfield 30 yards when they wanted to punt.
So Bryant took over at its 39 but couldn’t move it. Logan Grant actually punted the ball back.
In turn, McClellan picked up its initial first down but wound up punting when Bryant’s Josh Robinson stopped the lone Lions’ pass of the game for just a 2-yard gain.
Thomas found Hayes for 11 yards but, on the next try, the Lions intercepted. Their first play, however, resulted in another fumble, which the Hornets’ Xavion Jackson appeared to recover.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which resulted in a Lions lineman being ejected from the game, helped the Hornets’ force another shadow punt. On runs of 29 yards and 23 yards by Thomas, the offense drove to the McClellan 8 as the half neared.
On a second-and-goal at the 8, a pass to the end zone was intercepted by McClellan’s Cameron Bryant. He returned it to the 22 but on the next play, Michael Chatmon brought down the quarterback for a 6-yard loss.
McClellan got the ball to start the second half and drove from its own 31 to the Bryant 38. Running back Jalen Harris had to fall on a fumble to retain possession despite a 6-yard loss from which the Lions were unable to recover. The drive ended and Bryant got the ball back at its own 20.
Dickson’s first run broke for 20 yards. Moments later, on a third-and-10, he completed the 20-yard pass to Wright. Dickson was sacked on the next play and had to come out. That’s when Thomas broke free again.
McClellan drove to the Bryant 21 before Burton recovered the fumble. In turn, Dickson led a drive to the Lions’ 15, contributing runs of 13 and 16 yards. Terry dashed 12 yards and 10 yards along the way.
On a first down at the 15, Terry broke a run that appeared to be bound for paydirt but he was separated from the ball at the goal line and McClellan recovered in the end zone for a touchback with :14.7 left in the game.
Bryant will begin play in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference next Thursday when they travel to play Cabot North.