Photos by Rick Nation
If you really want to see where your team is in its preparation for a new season, scrimmaging against a quality opponent in your pre-season benefit game is invaluable. And that’s what the Bryant Hornets had on their hands Tuesday when they scrimmaged the Pulaski Academy Bruins, one of the top programs in the state year after year.
“A couple of years ago, we scrimmaged another team and it was 49-0 after two quarters,” recalled Hornets’ defensive coordinator Steve Griffith. “It did us no good whatsoever.
“We can improve off what we got from P.A.,” he asserted. “That’s what we wanted. And that’s what they wanted from us. That’s what you want to get out of a scrimmage.”
In three quarters, the two teams combined for 105 snaps, quality video to teach and learn from.
“They’re definitely a challenge offensively and defensively,” stated Bryant head coach Paul Calley. “Overall, I was pleased.”
The Hornets wound up outscoring the Bruins 42-35 in the varsity scrimmage and 7-0 in an eight-minute JV workout.
“What we had was an outstanding football team to give us a great look and it was very much uptempo,” Griffith noted after looking at the film. “Facing that pace is really difficult and I thought our guys responded really well.
“We got a chance to look at a team with some speed,” he continued. “We got a chance to tackle some very good running backs and receivers. We got execution of the screen game. It gave us a live chance to work on those things and we made some good plays, we made some poor. You know, we’ve got some things to work on.”
Calley added, “Defensively, I thought when we were fresh we were really good. As their super-fast tempo wore us down, it forced us into some mental errors.
“The late start didn’t help,” he acknowledged. “Not getting to have a good pre-game didn’t help.”
The game didn’t get started until 8:30 p.m. and wasn’t over until after 11 because it came on the heels of the Jonesboro-Little Rock Catholic scrimmage, which included a freshman workout too.
“But I thought our guys came out and played very physical,” Calley stated. “I was pleased with their intensity. I thought we were focused and ready to go.”
Griffith agreed, saying, “I felt like our effort was great all night. It was hot and they’re running plays as quick as — the whistle’s blowing and they’re snapping the ball at the whistle. Our guys up front, our top eight guys, they all rotated in. They played hard and they got after it.
“We still have a few areas where we have some tweaks to make,” he continued. “We had some plays that we almost made. We were in position. Our linebackers played pretty fast and pretty physical at times. We made some good contact on blocks that were coming at us. We missed our angles a little bit. We need to work on that.
“In the secondary, I thought we got pretty good play out of our safeties for the most part. We had a couple of missed plays. Our corners (seniors Drew Tipton and Mark Nelson) made some good plays but then they saw some things they need to work on. We feel like they’re two of our better football players. We know they’re going to come through throughout the year.”
Regarding the offense, Calley said, “(Pulaski Academy) showed us a lot of different looks defensively that we adjusted to. I thought we got tired as the game wore on. We made more fatigue mistakes, fundamentally, but we’ve still got playmakers. We didn’t block everything right but we’ve still got guys that can make plays.”
The Hornets were cited for four penalties with another major one negated by an offsetting infraction by the Bruins. For Bryant, they all seemed to come at inopportune times.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined,” Calley asserted. “We can’t be a retaliator when things happen. We preach it and preach it and preach it. I don’t want us to be intimidated. You’ve just got to respond in a better way. We were definitely challenged in that aspect of the game. I think we got four flags and all four were retaliation. We can’t have it. We’ll have a little extra for those guys to remind them and, hopefully, be a reminder for the rest of them.”
Along with making the corrections and adjustments that the scrimmage showed need to be made, the Hornets will now lock-in on their preparation for the arch-rival Benton Panthers and the annual Salt Bowl to be played Friday, Sept. 5, at 7:30 p.m., back at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.