Freshman Hornets’ defense smothers Panthers in first conference win

File photo by Rick Nation

CABOT — Bryant Hornets freshman football coach Kenny Horn likes what he calls a “clean” game. That means good execution, solid tackling, few penalties, no turnovers and, of course, a victory.

The Hornets were clean in some of those categories, a little spotty in others Thursday night. Most importantly, they won, improving to 2-0 on the season with a 21-0 decision over the Cabot North Panthers.

It was the second shutout for the Hornets who allowed the Panthers just 101 yards of offense, only 16 yards on the ground, while forcing six turnovers. Defensive back Jaylon Brown intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble.

Offensively, Hornets quarterback Cory Nichols hooked up with Jordan Knox for a pair of touchdown passes and Martavion Earle rushed for 88 yards and a score.

But the Hornets turned the ball over once of their own and got hit with 10 penalties, including some that undermined what might’ve been more scoring.

There was actually a lot of laundry on the field. The Panthers were hit up for 10 flags as well.

“We won an ugly game,” said Horn. “Sometimes that’s a mark of a good team if you can win an ugly game. But I really think, offensively, we’re better than that. All those penalties just set us back, you know? Lack of focus. That’s probably on me.

“I thought, the second half, we cleaned it up a little bit,” he mentioned. “We put some more points on the board and took the game over. But we’ve got to execute better than that, all the way through. We’ve got to have clean drives.”

Bryant led 8-0 at the half, scoring late after Brown’s first interception at the Cabot North 38. On the first play from there, Nichols threw deep to Knox for the 6. Nichols ran in a two-point conversion.

“Now, defensively, we played lights out again,” Horn said. “We tackled, ran to the football, didn’t bust any coverages, didn’t bust any assignments except maybe one or two. And when the ball came available, we took advantage of it.

“We may not have scored like we wanted to, but we kept taking the ball away from them, kept them from scoring,” he added. “Overall, we played hard and competed and won.”

Three penalties undermined Bryant’s opening possession of the game. Nichols had to punt.

Cabot North, despite being pinned back at its own 24, responded with its best scoring opportunity of the night. The big play of the drive was a third-down pass from quarterback Collin Olivi to big and fast receiver Chris Leaks that went for 34 yards. Later, the duo connected for 8 yards to convert a fourth-down to the 6.

But that would be the last reception for Leaks as the Hornets put the clamps on.

The defense toughened up right there. From the 2, linebacker Tyler Mosley knifed in and dropped Cabot North running back Evion Jimerson for a loss. A penalty moved the Panthers back 5 more. 

On a fourth-and-goal at the 9, Olivi threw a swing pass to Jimerson, who headed for the pylon in the left corner. On a tackle at the goal line, Jimerson fumbled the ball into and out of the end zone. By rule, possession was awarded to the Hornets on a touchback with 7:44 left in the half.

After picking up a first down, the Hornets turned the ball back over with a fumble that the Panthers’ Austin Robertson recovered 36 yards away from the end zone.

Mosley made another tackle for a loss on first down then the Panthers were hit with three consecutive penalties including a holding flag that negated an 11-yard scramble by Olivi.

On a second-and-35 from their own 39, the Panthers tried to pass but the pressure was such on Olivi that he threw off his heel and floated up a pass that resulted in Brown’s oskie.

Cabot’s next drive was foiled by Will Cornelius who shut down a pass completion to Jimerson for no gain then, on a third-down pass, pressured Olivi into an incompletion.

Cabot North got the first possession of the second half and, despite an offsides penalty against the Hornets, producing a first-and-5 situation, the Panthers went backwards as Cornelius made back-to-back lost-yardage tackles. On a third-and-12, Olivi, under pressure again, got rid of the ball and Brown intercepted at the Panthers’ 47.

In fits and starts, the Hornets drove for another score. But there were penalties for and against them and a pair of fumbles that cost them yardage but not possession. In fact, on a second-and-goal from the 15, Nichols and Chris Gannaway missed connections and the resulting fumble cost them 10 yards.

So, the Hornets faced a third-and-goal at the 25. Nichols went back to pass and was flushed from the pocket, rolling to his left but staying behind the line of scrimmage. When it looked like he was going to run, the Panthers’ secondary started to come up, leaving Knox wide open behind them. Nichols found him for the touchdown that took a lot of starch out of the Panthers.

The miscues continued. On the ensuing kickoff, Jimerson broke a 50-yard return into Bryant territory but a holding penalty cost the Panthers much of that yardage. They were pushed back to their own 29 where, on first down, Ethan Primus picked off an Olivi pass.

But the Hornets couldn’t move it and Nichols was set to try a quick kick only to have it partially blocked. Jimerson tried to scoop up the ball off the ricochet but was pounded as he did. The ball came loose, and Kyle Glymp recovered for Bryant.

Nichols found Braylen Montgomery for 15 yards then Braylon Brown for 13. On the second play of the fourth quarter, he appeared to scramble 13 yards for a touchdown, but a penalty negated the run. A mark-off for holding had them back at the 25.

On first-and-22 from there, the Panthers were cited for being offsides. Nichols followed with a run to the 6. Earle slashed to the 1 then got the call again. This time, the middle was clogged up. Earle was knocked backwards but didn’t go down. He bounced it outside and scored.

With Stephen Fuller’s extra point, the Hornets had a 21-0 lead.

Cabot’s next possession ended with the fumble that Jaylon Brown recovered.

The Hornets had a 65-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Montgomery mostly negated by another holding penalty. But, behind runs of 18 and 27 yards by Earle, Bryant drove to the Cabot North 5 then took a knee twice to run out the clock.

It was the Hornets’ first Central Arkansas Junior High Conference game. They’ll play another next Thursday at Lake Hamilton.



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