CABOT — The Bryant Hornets freshman team got ahead and stayed ahead. As a result, they handed the Cabot South Panthers their first loss of the season, 42-32, at Panthers Stadium Thursday night.
That’s the formula against any Cabot team. Running the dead-T, the Panthers just grind up yardage and time so, if you get behind, you don’t get many opportunities to make up a deficit.
But the Hornets scored first and, after that, every time the Panthers scored, they answered. Bryant never trailed in the game.
Fabian Torres rushed for 112 yards and four touchdowns while quarterback Carson Burnett ran for 113 yards and two scores behind the offensive line of Will Diggins, Kory Shellnut, Brooks Edmonson, Caleb Waddle and Jason Shifflet.
But it may have been Burnett’s two-point conversion pass to Diggins, on a tackle-eligible, that made the difference.
Andrew Stueve was 4 of 5 on extra-point kicks for the Hornets but, after Torres’ third TD turned a tenuous 21-20 lead into a 27-20 advantage with 6:04 left in the game, the Hornets went to two, looking to make it a two-score lead.
Lining up in a running formation with two defensive players lined up on the wing, Burnett started to run then pulled up and tossed a pass to Diggins to make it 29-20.
“The two-point conversion right there, trying to gain a possession,” noted Hornets coach Kenny Horn. “Luckily, it worked out for us. I think that was probably the play of the game.”
Another difference was the fact that Cabot South went for 2 after every touchdown only to have the Hornets deny them four out of five times.
In a wild finish, the teams combined to score 33 points in the fourth quarter.
“Everybody’s effort was really good tonight,” said Horn, who said he didn’t realize that Cabot South came in undefeated. “That’s a big win against a good team.
“We had just two penalties all night long, super clean,” he noted. “We had a couple of fluke fumbles, but we protected the ball well. We executed well, offensively and defensively. Good job tonight. I’m proud of everybody.”
It’s a far cry from the team that lost its Central Arkansas Junior High Conference-opener to Cabot North at home, 16-12. Cabot North is 4-3 on the year.
“They’ve gotten a lot better, gotten better every week,” Horn said of his players. “They’re doing a great job. I’m really proud of them.”
Now 6-2 this season, the Hornets travel to play Conway White next Thursday before closing out the season at home against the rival Benton Panthers on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Bryant surprised Cabot South to open the game with a screen pass that Torres broke for 38 yards. A play later, Stueve picked up 19 yards to get to the Panthers’ 5. Torres eventually scored from the 1 and less than three minutes into the game, the Hornets had a lead.
The Panthers made a bid to answer, inexorably marching to the Bryant 27 where they faced a fourth-and-8. Quarterback Braden Jay tried to go wide to pick up a first only to have Bryant’s Layton Dickerson knife through and stop him short.
Despite a 30-yard gallop by Burnett, the Hornets stalled out and had to punt to the Panthers, but Burnett booted them back to their own 20.
Jay’s 69-yard touchdown run on the option keeper got Conway White on the board but when big Eric Masterson was stopped on a run for two, Bryant maintained a 7-6 lead.
The Hornets’ answer was a 58-yard drive in four plays. Burnett connected with Stueve for 16 yards then kept for consecutive runs of 18 and 20 yards. Torres scored from the 4.
Stueve’s PAT made it 14-6.
The Panthers came right back to whittle on that advantage. Another long run by Jay set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Masterson to make it 14-12.
But, again, the Hornets maintained the lead when they foiled a two-point try. Jay threw incomplete.
And, despite getting the ball with just 1:23 left in the half, the Hornets responded once again. Burnett fired to Stueve for 11 yards then Torres blasted for 25 yards to the 18. Three plays later, Burnett scored from the 3 and Stueve kicked it to 21-12 with :17.9 left in the half.
Cabot South used some razzle-dazzle to get in position to score again. Using a halfback pass with Jay playing the halfback, they completed a pass for 25 yards to Aaron Pouncy.
After a timeout with :04.4 showing, Jay threw deep down the right side and into the end zone only to have Blake Everett intercept.
The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and drove to the Bryant 19 where Jay was dropped by Dickerson for a 7-yard loss. Jay got 12 back on third down but, on fourth, needing 3 yards for a first down, Masterson was stood up by the interior of the Bryant d-line and stopped short.
Bryant drove to its 30 when a pass from Burnett to Stueve appeared to convert a third-and-5. But the ball was knocked loose and Cabot South recovered at the Bryant 37.
Jay rolled for 32 yards to set up Mason Bell’s two-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds left in the third quarter. And this time, Jay ran in the conversion to make it 21-20.
Torres started Bryant’s answering drive with an 11-yard rumble. Burnett hit Everett with a pass for 29 yards only to have the ball come loose on the tackle again. This time, Logan White was there to claim it for the Hornets.
Torres eventually scored from the 12, setting up the two-point conversion that had the Hornets up 9 with 6:04 left to play.
Octavio Resendiz sacked Jay for a loss of 6 on the first play of the next series but, on the next snap, Jay found tight end Jose Lopez deep down the seam. It broke for a 79-yard touchdown to cut the Bryant lead to 29-26.
Hoping to cut the lead to 1, the Panthers went for two again only to have Masterson denied once again.
The Panthers tried an onside kick and nearly executed it well enough to get the ball back. But, just as a Cabot South player was arriving, Bryant’s Turner Seelinger covered it, taking a hit and hanging on.
And the Hornets turned it into more points. Again, a screen pass broke big for them. Burnett’s toss to Torres broke for 31 yards to the Cabot South 22. A play later, Burnett wove his way for 16 yards to the 1. Torres took it from there.
Even though Stueve’s extra point kick was wide left, the Hornets held a 35-26 advantage with 2:41 left.
But both teams would score again. Cabot South’s touchdown came on a 33-yard connection from Freeman to Lopez, trimming the margin to 35-32.
The Panthers’ try for two this time was undercut by a pair of false-start penalties. Still, Freeman had a bead on a receiver in the end zone only to have Kenny Jabo break it up. Jabo had just entered the game after safety Pierce Kinney was shaken up on the touchdown.
Another onside-kick attempt never made it the requisite 10 yards and the Hornets had possession at the Cabot South 39 with 1:36 to play.
Three totes by Torres reached the 21 and, on the next play, Burnett skirted left end and made it to the pylon for a clinching touchdown with 1:02 left to play.
Stueve added the extra point to set the final score.
The Hornets nearly added on when Freeman’s last-ditch pass was intercepted by Robert Hendrix and returned all the way to the 3.
With :45.9 left to play, the Hornets let the clock run down Burnett took a snap and took a knee, finishing the game with class.