By Rob Patrick
CONWAY — Bryant Blue’s Davis Nossaman and Jacob Irby knocked Conway Courtway’s Quenton Wyrick out of bounds at the 1-yard line to spoil a 2-point conversion attempt with 1:16 left to play on Thursday night. The play saved the Hornets’ 14-12 victory over the Kittens in the eighth-grade game at Centennial Bank Field at John McConnell Stadium.
The Blue team (from Bethel Middle School) improved to 4-1 on the season with the victory.[more]
Wyrick proved to be slippery for the Hornets to handle all night. Though he rushed for just 46 yards on 12 carries and caught four passed for 37 yards, it came despite the fact that Bryant Blue’s defensive line seemed to constantly be in the Kittens’ backfield. The Hornets struggled to bring him down. Wyrick constantly turned potential losses into gains. His 19-yard pass reception, which included two or three broken tackles set up the dramatic finish.
The Kittens, who had trailed the whole game, faced a fourth-and-7 at the Bryant 9 with 1:21 to go. Quarterback Tyler Garrettson rolled right and hit wide receiver Alex Reed in the end zone. But Reed was sandwiched between Bryant’s Bryce Decker and Chase Christy which prevented him from hanging onto the ball. It came out and in a blink, ricocheted off Christy’s back then scooped up before hit hit the ground by Conway’s A.J. Burton for the touchdown that cut the margin to 14-12. That set up the dramatic stop on the two-point try in which Wyrick took a direct snap and followed Garrettson and his blockers around right end only to be driven out of bounds just short of the tying 2.
It was a close call in a game that the Hornets seemed to control.
They’d opened the contest with an impressive 55-yard drive. Denker, who rushed for 104 yards on 20 carries, picked up 13 to the 6 and, on the next play, quarterback Dakota Beasancon hooked up with Trevor Ezell on a touchdown pass.
Out of the "two-ton" formation (with linemen Daniel Castleberry and Amador Gaspar as blocking backs), Denker picked up the 2-point conversion and Bryant led 8-0.
Three plays later, Nossaman intercepted a pass and returned it to the Bryant 47. The Hornets reached the Conway 46 but came up a yard short on a fourth-down play.
In response, the Kittens drove for a score behind Garrettson’s passing. He completed 5-of-6 during the drive including a 6-yard completion to Reed.
But when they tried for the tying 2, Bryant got pressure on the quarterback and his pass fell incomplete.
In turn, the Hornets drove to the 12 only to run out of downs. But they got a second chance when the Kittens couldn’t manage a first down when Ezell knocked down a third-down pass.
Surprisingly, the Kittens went for it from their own 17 with just over a minute left in the half. An incomplete pass followed, stopping the clock as Bryant took over on downs with 1:10 showing.
But the Conway defense held after the Hornets reached the 12 and it stayed 8-6 at the half.
The Kittens got the ball to start the second half, fielding an onside kick. Wyrick dashed for 14 yards after being hit in the backfield but, a play later, quarterback John Tabor, in for the shaken up Garrettson, threw deep down the left side only to have Ezell intercept at the 8.
Denker picked up 5 yards on two carries from there before Bryant’s third-and-5 play broke big. Beasancon passed to Nossaman 10 yards upfield and, using a springing block by Christy, Nossaman turned it into a 77-yard play. From the 10, Denker, using a wipe-out block by Colton Caviness rumbled into the end zone to make it 14-6.
On the 2-point try, it looked like Denker had nudged into the end zone but the call didn’t go the Hornets way and the door was left ajar with the Kittens just a touchdown and 2-pointer away from tying.
The momentum seemed to tilt Bryant’s way. After another onside kick that Conway covered at the Bryant 49, Tabor was sacked by Tanner Rich. Wyrick got the call on the next play but he was tracked down 12-yards behind the line of scrimmage and separated from the football by Gaspar. Tanner Gullett recovered for Bryant at the Conway 30.
A pair of penalties undermined the resulting possession and the Hornets wound up punting the ball away. In turn, Conway stalled at its own 40 as Irby, Denker and Rich each knocked down passes.
On fourth-and-10 from their own 40, the Kittens set up to punt but a bad snap undermined the effort and the Hornets took over on downs after stopping a scramble by punter Corey Goss for no gain.
Bryant drove to the 23 but stalled, turning the ball over to Conway on downs, setting the stage for the Kittens’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive.