CABOT — Andrew Hayes scooped and scored on a fumble then, on the next snap, intercepted a pass that led to another Bryant Hornets touchdown to cap off a 28-0 first half that held up for the victory over the Cabot White Panthers freshman team in Central Arkansas Junior High Conference play Thursday night.
K.J. Terry and Randy Thomas each had touchdown runs and the Bryant defense held the vaunted dead-T grind-it-up offense to just 10 yards rushing on the way to the shutout. The Panthers managed just one first down in the entire game. It came late in the third quarter when wide receiver Tommy Oaks lined up unnoticed near the boundary and run unchecked under a pass from Blaine Calhoon for 53 yards.
The Panthers still turned it over on downs and the Hornets’ reserves ate up the final 6:15 behind the running of Keethan Hudson and Coby Greiner.
Bryant, improving to 2-0 overall, ran 38 offensive plays to just 18 for Cabot White, figures that are usually the other way around.
“Possessions are usually limited,” said Bryant coach Kenny Horn. “But the two turnovers helped us, returning one for a touchdown was big.
“Defensively, we played outstanding,” he added. “I do feel like we were probably a little bit better than them, physically, but you’ve still got to finish and you’ve still got to play hard to beat teams. And we did.”
Thomas, who played only in the first half, rushed for 120 yards on 12 carries and completed a 34-yard pass to Hayes.
Bryant scored on all four of its first-half possessions including the opening series, grabbing an 8-0 lead.
“It does help to get ahead,” Horn acknowledged, regarding the ball-control offense of the Panthers. “When you score first against these guys, it’s a good thing because you’re not so much behind the eight ball. If you don’t score first, you never know when you’re going to get the ball back.”
The pass completion was the first big play of the game. The Hornets had driving to near midfield then a holding penalty turned a third-and-4 into a third-and-17. The pass kept the drive alive.
Moments later, Thomas kept for 23 yards to the 9 and, two plays after that, Terry scored from the 5.
Working the swinging gate formation, the Hornets added a two-point conversion when Jaylon Dickson threw to Jakob Neel to make it 8-0.
In turn, the Panthers were unable to muster a first down. A second-down play was stopped for no gain by Neel and Josh Salgueiro. Calhoon threw on fourth down but was pressured by Logan Grant and couldn’t get it far enough downfield for a completion.
The Hornets took over and their own 49 and, despite a holding penalty on first down, drove for another score. They faced a third-and-27 from their own 34 after a lost-yardage play, an incomplete pass and a penalty. But Thomas broke a 20-yard run to make it fourth-and-5 at the Cabot 46. They then dashed 31 yards to continue the march.
He would eventually score from the 12 to make it 14-0.
Cabot ran two plays on its next series before Hayes scooped up the fumble by Oaks and sprinted to paydirt. Dickson threw to Terry for the conversion and it was 22-0 with 3:37 left in the half.
After Bryant’s kickoff went out of bounds, the Panthers had the ball at their own 35. They tried a halfback pass but Justin Holland’s throw was picked off by Hayes who returned it all the way to the 17 only to have a blocking penalty negate some of that.
With 3:15 left in the half, the Hornets had the ball at the Cabot 37. Tyler O’Neal broke a 12-yard run then Thomas kept for 14 to the 7. O’Neal got it to the 2 and Thomas scored from there with 1:09 left in the half. The try for two failed this time but it was 28-0.
Cabot White had to punt after three plays to open the second half. Behind Greiner, Hudson and the second offensive line, the Hornets drove to the Cabot 20. A third-down pass, however, was intercepted by Jessie Winemaker for the Panthers.
Mason Martin broke the longest run of the game for Cabot on first down, picking up 9 yards. On the next play, Calhoon and Oaks hooked up.
From the Bryant 31, however, Wesley Ocampo tried to go wide only to have O’Neal haul him down for a loss of 6. Patrick Karp stuffed the next play, a run by Holland. So when Calhoon’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete, Bryant had the ball back for the final time.
Asked where his team had most improved since its 16-0 win over Little Rock McClellan to open the season the week before, Horn said, “I think we’ve improved offensively the most. I felt like everything was a lot smoother tonight, everything clicked a little better.
“I think our kids had a better understanding of what we taught this week,” he explained. “And it was a short week. Hopefully, next week, we can carry that over and make them understand the game plan for next week. Hopefully, we’ll continue to execute those things.
“I thought the communication since the Pine Bluff (scrimmage) was a ton better,” he added. “We did some great things tonight, offensively. Everybody played well. I thought the offensive line did well. Our quarterback did well. We played our back-up guys in the second half to give them a look. They executed well tonight.
“I don’t want to say we’re good but we are a lot better than we were two weeks ago,” the coach concluded.
The Hornets travel to Lake Hamilton next Thursday.