Hornets ease past Tigers, get set for Fort Smith Southside in playoffs
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
Granted, Chris Rycraw has not been the focus of every opponent’s defense quite to the extent that he was by the end of the 2008 season. By then, the Bryant Hornets had gone through three quarterbacks and Rycraw himself was taking as many snaps as the young sophomore QB. Everybody knew who was going to get it, they just didn’t know how he’d get it or where he was going. He still set school records in rushing attempts (284), rushing yardage (1,514) in a season and touchdowns (17) in the Hornets’ 12 games.
Of course, that’s not to say that every defense the Hornets have come up against this season hasn’t made their priority slowing down Rycraw. They certainly have. Even with quarterback Jimi Easterling passing for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, it was everybody’s aim to try to get Rycraw. And all he’s done is go out and match his production from last season in 54 fewer carries.
With 173 yards and two touchdowns on 23 totes in Thursday’s 34-0 win over the sadly hapless Little Rock Central Tigers, the senior running back has, unofficially, 1,517 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground (and another on a pass reception) to reset his own school standards.[more]
And, of course, a big part of that has been the blocking of the offensive line, primarily center Justin Rauch, guards Brett Clemons and Kaleb Burns, tackles Austin Johnson and Landon Pickett, tight ends Josh Hampton and Tyson Abernathy, and fullback Marcus Harris.
And with Thursday’s performance, Rycraw continued to add to his own career rushing mark, now up to 3,071 yards.
Yes, the quiet, scrawny kid with the baby face and the brilliant grin that transferred to Bryant from Little Rock Mills before his sophomore season has come a long way.
And he’s not done yet.
The Hornets, 8-2, will have at least one more game, possibly more, as they open the 2009 Class 7A State playoffs against the Fort Smith Southside Rebels on Friday, Nov. 13.
Bryant will be the fourth seed from the Central despite being just a game off the pace of the co-champions, Cabot and North Little Rock. Cabot’s 28-26 win over the Russellville Cyclones on Thursday, left the Hornets in a tie with Russellville for third. By virtue of their 14-3 win over the Hornets, the Cyclones gain the No. 3 seed from the league.
Southside, the fifth seed from the 7A-West, finishes its regular season tonight against the crosstown rival Northside Grizzlies. The Rebels will be trying to improve to 6-4 on the season.
The Hornets’ seniors will have a chance to set a new standard for wins by a class. Thursday’s victory was the fourth straight eight-win campaign by Bryant so this year’s seniors, like last year’s, have now been involved in 24 victories.
The Hornets became the fifth team to shut out Central this season. The Tigers’ offensive woes made their 73 yards of total offense merely typical.
Senior linebacker Trey Sowell led the defense with 10 tackles including three for losses. He also had an interception. Senior defensive tackle Ronnie Maxwell had his best game of the season with eight stops including four for losses.
Bryant defensive line coach Brad Stroud reported that he could not remember anyone having that many tackles for losses in a game.
Josh Hampton, Brennan Bullock and Tanner Tolbert each got in on five stops along the way.
The game marked the end of the 44-year coaching career of Central head coach Bernie Cox and Bryant officials noted that before the game with a brief ceremony and the presentation of a plaque.
The loss was the Tigers’ 21st in a row, dating back to 2007.
With the Tigers winless on the season, the Bryant coaches’ primary concern was that their team would respect the opponent regardless and play hard from the outset.
They did just that.
Bryant got off to a great start when Tolbert returned the opening kickoff from his own 20 to the Central 3. The touchdown-saving tackle only delayed the score. But it took a couple of plays as Tigers’ linebacker Trent Magsby got some penetration on first down and dropped Rycraw for a loss at the 6.
But, on the next play, Rycraw eased through a big hole on the left side to get his 16th rushing touchdown of the season.
Sophomore kicker Jace Denker, who wound up accounting 10 points in the game including field goals of 31 and 37 yards, converted all four of his extra-point attempts.
Central picked up a first down on its first possession. A third-down pass from Cole Westbrook to Orlin Loving went for 12 yards to the Tigers 42 but, a play later, Maxwell dropped Tim Campbell for a loss and Westbrook’s third-down pass sailed beyond his intended receiver’s reach. That was probably for the best because Bryant’s Brady Butler was stride-for-stride with him.
As it turned out, the completion early in the drive was the only one for the Tigers in the contest.
John Riggins punted the Hornets back to their own 18 and they proceeded to put together a scoring drive that was as long as the first one was short.
Along the way, Rycraw had runs of 9, 18, 15, and 14 yards. The Hornets overcame a holding penalty with a pair of Easterling passes, one for 15 yards to Chris Arnold, the other for 7 yards to Brandon Parish.
Easterling, who finished 8 of 12 for 82 yards and a score, completed his first five throws. The fourth and fifth of those started a drive from the Hornets’ 38 after the defense had forced a three-and-out. The first went for 9 yards to Parish, the second was a leaping catch by Arnold for 15. Rycraw followed with a 29-yard dash to the 9.
This time, a holding penalty proved too much to overcome and, with 11:29 left in the first half, Denker booted his first field goal to make it 17-0.
The Tigers put together a drive from their own 20 to the Bryant 29, mostly behind the running of Campbell. But, on a fourth-and-2, a bad pitch lost 18 yards and the Hornets took over on downs 47 yards away from paydirt.
It took three plays. Rycraw laced his way to a 25-yard run. He powered for 7 more then Easterling and Parish teamed up for the 6 from 21 yards out.
Denker kicked it to 24-0.
The Tigers were unable to manage a first down the rest of the half and when Sowell made his interception at the Central 28 with 2:20 to go, the Hornets took advantage.
With reserves filtering in, the Hornets found the end zone in five plays. The big one was a 19-yard burst by junior fullback Jon Reed. A play later, Jacob Powell plunged in from the 1 with just five seconds left in the half.
Denker’s PAT made it 31-0.
To start the second half, the Tigers went three and out and Bryant started with good field position at the Central 48.
With the starters back, the Hornets drove to the 15. Easterling’s 16-yard scramble on a fourth-and-3 from the 40 kept the drive alive but a procedure
call once they got to the 15 undermined the effort. So, with 6:14 left in the third quarter, Denker drilled a 37-yard field goal to set the final score.
The Tigers managed to get into the red zone twice after that. The first time came after a 58-yard kickoff return by Kris Pettus. On three running plays, they reached the 19. But, on first down there, Bryant end Ben Seale tracked down Westbrook for an 11-yard sack and the Tigers couldn’t recover. A fourth-down throw into the end zone was slapped away with a leaping effort by senior corner Kendrick Farr and the Hornets took over on downs.
The second time came after Orlando Kendricks recovered a Bryant fumble at the Hornets’ 35. A 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the 20. Three running plays got the Tigers to the 14 but a penalty pushed them back and, on fourth down, Westbrook was sacked by Dustin Grimmett.
Bryant took over and ate up the final 4:25 to close out the win.
BRYANT 34, LR CENTRAL 0
Score by quarters
LR Central 0 0 0 0 — 0
BRYANT 14 17 3 0 — 34
BRYANT — Rycraw 6 run (Denker kick), 11:07
BRYANT — Rycraw 4 run (Denker kick), 2:59
BRYANT — Denker 31 field goal, 11:29
BRYANT — Parish 21 pass from Easterling (Denker kick), 7:43
BRYANT — Powell 1 run (Denker kick), 0:05.6
BRYANT — Denker 37 field goal, 6:14
LR Central BRYANT
First downs 6 13
Rushes-yds 35-61 43-270
Passing 1-6-1 8-12-1
Passing yds 12 82
Punts-avg 5-33.6 1-39.0
Fumbles-lost 3-0 1-1
Penalties-yds 4-30 5-46
Rushing: BRYANT, Rycraw 23-173, Jones 8-32, Powell 6-20, Reed 1-19, Easterling 2-15, Freshour 2-11, Harris 1-0; LR CENTRAL, Campbell 22-94, Pettus 2-6, Kendricks 1-5, Dillon 2-4, Adams 1-1, Morris 1-1, Westbrook 6-(-50).
Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT, Easterling 8-12-1-82; LR CENTRAL, Westbrook 1-6-1-12.
Receiving: BRYANT, Parish 5-46, Arnold 2-30, Garland 1-14; LR CENTRAL, Loving 1-12.