Photos by Kevin Nagle
The Bryant Hornets freshman team defense held the Cabot North Panthers to just 18 yards of total offense without a first down in the first half as the offense piled up a 20-0 lead on Thursday night.
The Hornets, on their way to a 26-0 win, held the Panthers to just two first downs and 69 yards of total offense for the game as they improved to 2-0 this season.
Both wins have been over Cabot teams. On opening night, they edged Cabot South 12-7.
“Coming out with a ‘W’ against Cabot (teams) two weeks in a row — man, we’re lucky,” stated Hornets coach Kenny Horn. “We’ve got South one more time (at Cabot on Oct. 23). I don’t know if we can do it again. It’s hard.
“It’s crazy playing those guys,” he added. “They had a pretty good scheme right there, trying to get to us but we made an adjustment and I think it helped us tremendously. Coach (John) Orr, Coach (Kirk) Bock and Coach (Travis) Queck did another good job.”
The Hornets’ dynamic quarterback Michael Jones rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two more with both scoring strikes being hauled in by Cameron Vail. Jones rushed 11 times for 73 yards and completed 8 of 15 passes for 141 stripes. Vail caught four of those throws for 102 of the yards.
Horn was looking for improvement from his team and he got it, he said.
“I think we improved everywhere,” the coach asserted. “We threw the ball a lot better this week. I thought we caught the ball a lot better this week. We’ve still got to clean up some of our routs and stuff but, for the most part, we threw and caught well and that’s what we like to do.
“Up front, we still didn’t block just real well, I didn’t think, but we had moments we did really well,” he continued. “There were — not missed assignments, just not getting it done.”
Of his defense’s work, Horn related, “We’re pretty solid there and those guys are pretty aggressive. They were aggressive tonight. They passed some licks. I thought we played well defensively. Everybody hustled around and everybody knew their assignments.”
The Hornets struck quickly, scoring touchdowns on each of their first two possessions. After just missing a long throw on the first play of the game, they tried it again after a procedure penalty. Jones found Vail down the right seam, hit him in stride and Vail sprinted into the end zone on a 61-yard play.
Cabot North’s first series ended when, on a third-and-6 at the 24, Johnny Smith cut down running back Conley Hillegas after a 2-yard pickup.
A short punt gave the Hornets possession just 41 yards away from more points. They covered that in four plays, the key one was a 26-yard scamper by Jones off the option read. After Diante Woodson picked up 3 more to the 5, Jones scored then added a run for a two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 3:27 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers had to punt again after they couldn’t make up for a 2-yard loss on a run by Skylar Weidman in which Ryan Harris and Lester Bennett made the stop.
Again Bryant got great field position after a short punt. The Panthers’ punts were snaps to the quarterback then a pitch back to the punter just seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. The Hornets pressured just about every kick.
A fumble, however, ended Bryant’s drive at the Cabot 21. Hunter Hart recovered for the Panthers, who were, however, once again stifled. On a fourth-and-1 at their own 29, they decided to go for it. They tried to surprise the Hornets with a pass but it fell incomplete.
That was one of 12 passes for Cabot North, an unusually high number for a Cabot team, which all run the dead-T, designed for a power ground game.
The Hornets drove to the 5 but a loss on third down and goal resulted in a field goal attempt. Miguel Garcia had plenty of leg but his kick was wide.
Taking over at the 20, Cabot North’s first snap resulted in a sack of quarterback Rail Gilliam by Bryant’s Johnny Wallace. They would turn it over on downs again, this time at their own 23 but a fumble two plays later gave them another chance.
Once again, however, the defense for the Hornets held them without a first down. With :39.9 left in the half, Bryant took over at the Cabot North 32 and, this time, the Hornets cashed in. A 17-yard connection from Jones to Vail set up Jones’ 15-yard touchdown bolt to make it 20-0.
The Panthers picked up their initial first down on the opening possession of the second half on consecutive runs by Janson Hubanks. But, a play later, Conley Hillegas was dropped for a loss by Antonio Todd and Brooks Ellis.
On fourth-and-9 from the Cabot 49, the Panthers went for it. Hillegas broke loose around the left side but James Polite drilled him at the sideline just short of the first.
The Hornets’ offense followed up with an impressive 13-play, 57-yard scoring drive. The march was highlighted by a third-down pass for 20 yards from Jones to Jakalon Pittman. On a second third-down situation, Jones found Tristan Calhoun for 11 yards to the 25. On third-and-7 at the Cabot 22, it was Jones-to-Vail again for 10 yards.
A penalty threatened to derail the drive. The Hornets faced a fourth-and-13 at the 14 when, one final time, Jones found Vail who skirted the right sideline and into the end zone for the touchdown.
The final score was set with :22.5 left in the third quarter.
Cabot North had two possessions in the fourth quarter and managed its second first down. The Panthers reached Bryant territory for just the second time but James McClendon and Pittman combined to sack Gilliam on second down and, after a 12-yard pass to Nick Belden, Todd cut down Gilliam on a scramble for a loss of 2 to end the threat.
Bryant ran some clock with Antonio Fuller and quarterback Myers Buck moving the ball but the Hornets were unable to overcome a holding penalty and turned the ball over on downs at the Cabot North 35 with 1:31 left to play.
One final sack of Gilliam was made by Pittman before the Panthers ran out of time. The last two passes were broken up and nearly intercepted by Vail and Grayson Prince.
The Hornets, who start the season with six consecutive home games, host Lake Hamilton next Thursday.
HORNETS 26, PANTHERS 0
Score by quarter
Cabot North 0 0 0 0 — 0
BRYANT 14 6 6 0 — 26
BRYANT — Vail 61 pass from Jones (pass failed), 7:28
BRYANT — Jones 5 run (Jones run), 3:27
BRYANT — Jones 15 run (kick failed), 0:19.4
BRYANT — Vail 14 pass from Jones (kick failed), 0:22.5
First downs 2 9
Rushes-yds 25-33 22-115
Passing 5-12-0 8-15-0
Passing yds 36 141
Punts-avg. 2-30.5 0-00.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-yds 1-5 3-15
Rushing: BRYANT, Jones 11-73, Fuller 5-26, Woodson 5-12, Buck 1-4; CABOT NORTH, Nabors 4-23, Hubanks 8-20, Hillegas 5-16, Whisker 1-2, Weidman 1-(-2), Gilliam 6-(-26).
Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT, Jones 8-15-0-141; CABOT NORTH, Gilliam 5-12-0-36.
Receiving: BRYANT, Vail 4-102, Pittman 3-28, Calhoun 1-11; CABOT NORTH, Belden 3-28, Weidman 2-8.