Freshmen Hornets clinch league crown as Motes sets mark for TD passes

CONWAY — For the fifth time in the last six years and the second year in a row, the Bryant Hornets freshman team has clinched the championship of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference. They did it with a 41-9 romp over the Conway White Wampus Cats and with a little help from their Saline County cousins in Benton, who upended the Cabot South Panthers, the only team remaining that had a shot at catching the Hornets.

Bryant hosts Benton in their 2020 finale on Tuesday, looking for a second consecutive undefeated season. The Panthers are responsible for the Hornets’ last loss, a 26-0 decision in the last game of 2018.

Using just 13 offensive plays, the Hornets piled up a 35-0 lead on Conway White by the 6:03 mark of the second quarter. The first team offense came out of the game and did not return. 

Hornets quarterback Gideon Motes completed 7 of 10 passes for 158 yards and three touchdowns. That gave him 27 touchdown passes this season, breaking the freshman record of 26 set by Brandan Warner in 2011. 

The first TD toss came on the first play of the game. With Conway White blitzing, Motes found Drake Fowler on a tunnel screen that broke for 46 yards. Jaime Perez kicked the extra point and it was 7-0 just 14 seconds into the game.

White managed a first down on its first possession but, on a third-and-9 from their 17, a lateral to running back Desmond Davidson was snuffed out by Fowler for a loss of a yard, forcing a punt.

But punter Dylan Haring mishandled the snap and did well to recover it. But the result was another Bryant possession just 10 yards away from paydirt. Jaden Ashford covered that on first down and, with Perez’ PAT, it was 14-0 before the opening quarter was half done.

Gavin Lewis, A.J. Foreman and Chelton Murdock had tackles for losses on the Cats’ next series. This time, Haring got a punt away and Mytorian Singleton returned it 14 yards to the Cabot 48.

A holding penalty had the Hornets facing a second-and-20 but Singleton ran a slant and Motes hit him in stride. It broke for 40 yards to the 18. Motes kept to the 10 and, a play later, flipped a shovel pass to Singleton, who sliced through the defense for a touchdown. Perez kicked it to 21-0.

That came with just 1:18 left in the first quarter. Perez skied the kickoff into no-man’s land and the Wampus Cats couldn’t get to the ball as it bounced away from the return man. In a scrum for the loose ball, Ashford claimed it for Bryant at the 14.

Motes fumbled the snap on first down but coolly regained possession and fired a 12-yard pass to Ashford. From the 2, they used the shovel pass again. This time Ashford was on the receiving end and he scored. Perez booted the PAT and with 46 seconds still to play in the first quarter, the Hornets had piled up a 28-0 lead.

After picking up a first down, Conway White was stymied by the Hornets’ defense. A third-down run was stopped for a loss of 4 by Easton Benton and Singleton. A fourth-down try was foiled by Nick Biskey.

The Hornets took over on downs at the White 45 and went right to work. Motes found Singleton for 38-yards. A play later, Fowler caught a 10-yard pass to the 7. From there, Ashford found the end zone. Christian Chandler added the extra point this time and it was 35-0.

Bryant’s first-team defense stayed in the game and forced a Conway White punt. A first-down stop for a loss of 5 by Benton provided the impetus for the stand.

Head coach Kenny Horn turned to his reserves on offense and, on a third-down pass, Conway White made an interception and returned it to the Bryant 23.

A play later, however, Aaron Grenado picked off a Wampus Cat pass and nearly returned it for a touchdown. He was caught and flung out of bounds at the Conway White 11.

A couple of penalties pushed the Hornets back and when they finally were able to snap it, a bad exchange returned in a fumble with Conway White’s John Thompson recovering.

But Foreman and Murdock made stops for losses and the half concluded.

With the mercy-rule in effect, the Cats offense used up the entire third quarter droving from their 41 to the Bryant 7. They began to effectively use a swing pass to the H back, Ben Chandler to convert a fourth down and a third down along the way. The latter pass reached the 7.

As the fourth quarter began, the Hornets’ defense made a stand. On a fourth-and-goal at the 1, Murdock and Justine Myles stopped Davidson at the 1.

The Hornets took over, but Hughes was caught in the end zone for a safety with 4:06 left to go.

Bryant’s free kick was returned into Bryant territory. With a face mask penalty tacked on, the Cats started their series at the Bryant 27.

With reserves working in for the Hornets, Davidson was able to cover the ground in two carries. His TD run plus an extra point by Angel Lopez made it 35-9 with 2:55 left to play.

And, with that, Horn allowed Hughes to throw the ball. He completed all three of his tries, the first two to Jase Ham then a short toss to Nick West, who turned it upfield and down the right sideline for a final touchdown with 1:26 left.

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