CABOT — Trailing 14-6, the Cabot South Panthers eighth grade team was set to get the ball to start the second half. And, in their patented grind-it-out style, they marched inexorably from their own 29 to the Bryant White Hornets’ 24.
It looked like they were on their way to cutting into the lead or, with a two-point conversion, tying it up.
But, on a second-and-7 at the 24, running back Payson Woods, on his way to 120 yards rushing in the game, lost the handle on the ball after a less-than-clean handoff. Bryant’s Blaine Sears recovered.
Cabot had used all but 27 seconds on the seven-minute third quarter and came up empty.
The Hornets turned the table on them too, moving the ball from their own 24 to the Cabot 15 where a fourth-down run by Myles Aldrige was stopped a yard short of a first down.
The Panthers took over but only had 2:03 left to work with, a tough situation for a running-team. To that point, Cabot South had only attempted four passes without a completion.
To their credit, the Panthers got into Bryant territory behind Woods’ running. On a fourth-and-5 at their own 47, quarterback Brayden Morse dashed 10 yards for a first down but there were only a few seconds left. A quick pass completion for Morse to Brayden Roberts picked up 13 yards to the Bryant 30 but, before the Panthers could line up and snap it for one last try, time expired and the Hornets had made the halftime lead hold up for the final tally.
The win improved Bryant Middle School team to 4-3 on the season going into their season finale at home against Benton on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
The first half of the contest was much different than the second as the teams traded touchdowns initially then traded turnovers.
The Hornets opened the game with a touchdown drive from their own 42. The key to the march was a 32-yard bolt by Aldrige on the second play from scrimmage. Austin Ledbetter slashed for 10 yards on the next play and it was first-and-goal at the 8.
Though it took four tries, the Hornets eventually got on the board on a 2-yard run by Aldrige. A try for two was stopped short.
Cabot South countered with a 60-yard trudge in 13 plays eating up the final 4:08 of the first quarter and the first 2:16 of the second.
The key moment came when the Panthers fumbled and, though they retained it, they lost 6 yards. Against a Cabot dead-T offense, forcing long yardage situations, particularly on third down, is usually a recipe for forcing a punt. But on two carries by Woods, the Panthers made up the yardage this time.
The Panthers eventually scored on a 2-yard run by Matthew Lauland. But Woods was stopped trying to add a two-point conversion run.
With 4:35 left in the half, the Hornets started just their second possession of the game. A quick throw from Ledbetter to Aldrige picked up 14 yards but, after Connor Coleman dashed for 18 yards, penalties on the next two plays threatened to throw the Hornets off track. On a third-and-22, Aldrige slashed for 9 yards to set up a fourth-and-13 at the Panthers’ 33.
Somehow Aldrige got behind the Cabot South secondary and Ledbetter got the ball to him for a 31-yard completion that not only converted the fourth down but set up the Hornets with first-and-goal. Ledbetter kept for the touchdown to put the Hornets back on top. And when Aldrige caught Ledbetter’s pass on the conversion, Bryant led 14-6 with 2:30 still to play in the first half.
Ledbetter intercepted a pass with 1:26 left, returning it to the Cabot South 38. On the first play from there, however, Ledbetter tried to throw deep only to have Kyler Carmack intercept it right back.
With 1:09 left in the half, however, the Panthers ran out of time and downs. Bryant White’s Luke Blacklaw made a big stop for a loss on a third-and-8. A fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
The Hornets only had one possession in the second half. It was highlighted by a 13-yard gallop by Aldrige then a 30-yard keeper by Ledbetter.