Photos by Kevin Nagle and Rick Nation
The Bryant Hornets and the Conway Blue Wampus Cats came into Thursday night’s rush-rush battle at Hornets Stadium as the last two teams in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference with unblemished league records.
Starting early and played with no frills in order to get the game in before severe thunderstorms arrived from the west, Bryant threw just three passes scored on both first-half possessions and on the first of the second half to build a 21-0 lead. The Wampus Cats rallied, taking advantage of a Hornets turnover to get within 21-14 but Bryant grinded out the final 4:49 with its running game to come away with the victory.
The Hornets improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the league.
“That was our game plan,” stated Bryant coach Kenny Horn. “We had to get it in. So we were going to try to pound them and that’s what we did.”
The Hornets accumulated 175 yards rushing in the game, led by Diante Woodson with 102 on 13 tries with a touchdown. Quarterback Michael Jones added 67 yards on 19 carries with two scores. He also completed two of the three passes for 44 yards.
Conway Blue’s Michael George ran for 114 yards and two TDs after he had been held to 31 yards in the first half. He accounted for almost all of the Wampus Cats total offense (134 yards). Quarterback Matt Lloyd completed 2 of 6 passes for 30 yards.
With the 21-0 lead, the Hornets had forced Conway Blue into a fourth-and-1 situation early in the fourth quarter. George got the call and not only got the first down but scored from 37 yards out.
A try for two failed and, since the Conway defense had not yet been able to stop the Hornets, it looked like a hiccup on the way to victory. But, after the kickoff, Jones and Woodson missed connections on a handoff and the fumble occurred. Conway Blue’s Chris Walters recovered.
George dashed for 23 yards then scored from the 5 with 4:51 left in the game. He added a run for the two-point conversion as well.
But the Hornets closed out the win by driving from their own 25 to the Wampus Cats’ 37. Jones took a knee twice and the game concluded well before the storms blew through.
“I was nervous about letting them back in the game,” Horn acknowledged. “Two mental mistakes the whole night and that’s what happened, we let them back in.
“But I knew if we could get the ball back, I felt like we could run the clock out,” he asserted. “I think we only had two negative plays (on offense) all night. I felt pretty good about us up front. We had them schemed up just right and we executed it well. We pounded the ball down the field like we needed to. We did what we needed to do and came out with a big win.
“They’re a pretty good squad,” Horn said of Conway Blue. “I felt like they were athletically better than us but our guys dominated them other than those two mental mistakes.”
The Wampus Cats used one of Lloyd’s pass completions to pick up a first down on the opening series of the contest. The 17-yard strike was hauled in by Rickey Fuller. But George was dropped for a loss by Johnny Smith then Cameron Vail and Tristan Calhoun took turns breaking up passes to force a punt.
The short kick gave the Hornets their first possession at their own 41. Behind the running of Jones and Woodson and the blocking of the team’s solid offensive line, they drove to the Conway 33.
At that point, the duo misconnected on a mesh much like they would later in the game. This time, however, Woodson pounced on the loose ball and they retained possession. It was a 5-yard loss though.
That prompted Jones’ first two passes. The first was knocked down but the second was hauled in by Vail for 14 yards. Lloyd, playing safety, made a touchdown-saving tackle.
The play left the Hornets with a fourth-and-1 at the Cats’ 24. Jones’ sneak got the first down and, on the next play, Woodson dashed 21 yards for the touchdown.
An extra point attempt was blocked.
Conway Blue, in turn, drove to the Bryant 45 from its own 35, all on the running of George. On a third-and-2, the Cats’ running back was held to 1 on a nice open-field tackle by Vail. On fourth down, Lloyd was dropped for a loss by Parker Littleton and the Hornets took over on downs.
It took four plays to drive for another score. Woodson’s 19-yard run set up Jones’ 26-yard scamper for the 6. He then threw to Luke Curtis for the two-point conversion and it was 14-0 with 3:11 left in the half.
The Hornets forced a three-and-out and when Lloyd punted them back to their 10, Jones took a knee to end the half.
Bryant got the ball to start the second half and pounded 69 yards in 11 plays to extend the margin. A key third-down conversion early in the drive involved a fake to Woodson and a pass by Jones down the middle to tight end Brooks Ellis that broke for 30 yards.
With Antonio Fuller contributing a pair of runs, the Hornets reached the 10. On a fourth-and-2, Jones wriggled through tackles to pick up 6 yards and a first down. On the next snap, he scored. Luke Welch kicked the extra point and it was 21-0.
Bryant had used all but 2:28 of the third quarter.
On Conway’s first scoring drive, the Cats had to convert a fourth down twice. George scored on the second one. The first one, he converted with a 13-yard run.
The Hornets, who have not yet played a game on the road this season, will play the last of six consecutive home games next Thursday when they host Little Rock Catholic.
BRYANT 21, CONWAY BLUE 14
Wampus Cats 0 0 0 14 — 14
HORNETS 6 8 7 0 — 21
BRYANT — Woodson 21 run (kick blocked), 0:21.7
BRYANT — Jones 26 run (Jones pass to Curtis), 3:11
BRYANT — Jones 4 run (Welch kick), 2:28
CONWAY BLUE — George 37 run (pass failed), 6:22
CONWAY BLUE — George 5 run (George run), 4:51
First downs 5 12
Rushes-yds 20-104 34-175
Passing 2-6-0 2-3-0
Passing yds 30 44
Punts-avg. 2-39.00 0-00.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yds 2-10 1-5
Rushing: BRYANT, Woodson 13-102, Jones 19-67, A.Fuller 2-6; CONWAY BLUE, George 18-114, Lloyd 2-(-10).
Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT, Jones 2-3-0-44; CONWAY BLUE, Lloyd 2-6-0-30.
Receiving: BRYANT, Ellis 1-30, Vail 1-14; CONWAY BLUE, R.Fuller 2-30.