Freshman Hornets pound Panthers in first-place showdown

CABOT — In a battle of unbeatens, with first place in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference on the line, the Bryant Hornets freshman team scored of each of its seven first-team possessions for a 49-19 win over the Cabot South Panthers on Thursday night.

That extended a streak in which the Hornets’ first team has scored on 40 of 42 possessions since their last punt, which occurred in their season-opener at Warren. The other two times they did not score, they turned the ball over on downs against Cabot North in week two then lost the ball on an interception to end a drive against El Dorado last week.

Bryant is now 8-0 going into a trip to play Conway White next Thursday. They’ll wrap up the season on Nov. 3 at home against Benton.

Jalen Ashford scored three touchdowns and piled up 128 yards on seven carries while catching two passes for 69 yards. Quarterback Gideon Motes passed for four scores and ran for another.

“Offensive execution was outstanding,” declared Hornets coach Kenny Horn. “We threw the ball; we caught the ball. We ran the ball tough. Up front we did a great job. The offensive line did outstanding work tonight.”

That would be tackles Tate Settle, Rafe Wallace and Jonathan Resendiz, guards Cole Rye and Brendon Bates along with center Matt Elder.

Behind them, Bryant amassed 448 yards of offense.

To their credit, the Panthers, who came in averaging 30 points a game this season, scored 19 against the Hornets. In seven previous games, Bryant had only allowed 20 points total.

“They had three big plays on us and two of them were touchdown plays,” Horn noted. “We’re not going to stop everybody all the time. They’re good. They were undefeated and they’ve scored a lot of points this year. To hold them to 19, I thought was outstanding. 

“And we responded every time,” he asserted. “Man, we were physical tonight. We executed everywhere well. We played hard. Our kids wanted to win bad. Our kids were focused. They were ready to play, and it showed.

“I can’t say enough about John and Blake and Guy,” Horn said, referring to his assistants, John Orr, Blake Ratliff and Guy Brown. “They are outstanding. All I did was get the bus papers ready today.”

To illustrate the standards that he holds his squad to, Orr, the defensive coordinator, was disappointed with those 19 points surrendered.

The teams traded licks in the first quarter, which ended with Bryant up 14-12. The difference was two Jaime Perez extra points and the fact that the Hornets’ defense stuffed a pair of two-point conversion tries.

Before the half was out, the Hornets scored twice more to take a 28-12 lead into the intermission.

To start the second half, there was a trade of touchdowns again that had the Hornets up 42-18. In the fourth quarter, the Hornets took over on downs and added a final touchdown drive. Cabot South’s last gasp ended with Bryant’s Harold Lynch intercepting a pass.

The Hornets were stunned at the start of the game when, on the first play, Panthers’ running back Carter Bing broke a 63-yard touchdown run. Bing would finish the game with 109 yards on nine carries.

In turn, Bryant drove 62 yards in five plays to take the lead. Motes, who rushed for 88 yards on nine keeps, had runs of 14 and 11 yards, setting up a 26-yard touchdown pass to Mytorian Singleton, the first of his two scoring receptions.

Bing’s run for 10 yards on the next series picked up a first down but the Hornets stepped up to force a punt. Alex Martin and Sebastian Oltmans combined on a stop of no gain on second down. On a third-down pass, Drake Fowler and Chelton Murdock stopped receiver Logan Eason after a gain of a yard.

The Hornets were punted back to their own 35 but, on the first play there, Ashford tore through the Panthers’ defense to go 65 yards. Bryant led 14-6.

Cabot South answered with the help of a 35-yard kickoff return by big Gavin Reardon, who played linebacker and wide receiver for the Panthers.

On first down at the Bryant 33, quarterback Donovan O’Neal found Reardon behind the Hornets’ secondary for a touchdown.

The Hornets responded with another TD march, despite losing 5 yards on a first-down play. On a fourth-and-1 at the 44, Motes kept for 18 yards to keep the drive alive. Ashford ran for 9 yards then Motes for 23 to get to the 6. On a third-and-goal, Motes kept again, this time getting into the end zone.

Down 21-12, the Panthers drove to the Bryant 10. The big play was a 46-yard pass from O’Neal to Reardon.

At the 10, a fumbled snap coast them two yards. A third-down run by O’Neal was negated by a holding penalty. Singleton nearly intercepted a third-down pass. A fourth-down throw down the middle looked like it might go for 6 but Singleton came flashing in front of the ball to knock it down just before it got to Ross Baxter, the receiver.

With 2:26 left in the half, the Hornets went and scored again. Motes completed passes of 15 yards to Singleton, 36 yards on a screen pass to Ashford, then for 2 yards to Fowler for the touchdown that made it 28-12 at the half.

The Hornets got the ball to start the third quarter, but they had to foil another onside kick. A play later, Motes found Singleton, who made a marvelous cut on a dime up the field on his way to a 58-yard touchdown.

O’Neal was drilled on an incomplete pass a play into the next possession for Cabot South. He came out and Ethan Collins eventually threw 33 yards to Baxter for a touchdown.

Reardon kicked the extra point and it was 35-19 with 4:04 left in the third quarter.

Oltmans covered another onside kick, giving the Hornets just 55 yards to another touchdown. Motes completed a 9-yard pass to Jaylen Ryland and, a play later, Ashford broke a 46-yard touchdown pass to make it 42-18.

Cabot South drove to the Bryant 46 where defensive end Nick Biskey sacked Collins and forced a fumble, one on which the Panthers were fortunate to recover.

But soon after, they faced a fourth-and-11 at the Bryant 47. A short pass to Gavin Vest only picked up 4 of the 11 yards needed to keep the drive going.

With 6:11 to play, the Hornets took possession. A shovel pass to Ashford broke for 33 yards. Yet, the Hornets eventually faced a fourth-and-8 at the 24. Motes and Ashford hooked up again and it went the distance for the TD.

With Perez’ seventh successful extra point, the final score was on the board.

After Lynch’s interception, Aaron Hernandez broke a 14-yard run for a first down, which allowed the Hornets to drain the clock.

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