Hornets’ freshman defense controls Whirlwinds in 36-6 win

With the defense holding the visiting Russellville Whirlwinds freshman team to just 40 yards of offense, including only 9 yards net on the ground, the Bryant Hornets freshmen rolled to a 36-6 victory on Thursday night at Bryant Stadium.

Offensively quarterback Randy Thomas ran for two scored and threw for another while Keethan Hudson added two TD runs. Thomas finished with 186 yards rushing which put him over 1,000 on the season. He has 1,103 on 109 carries (a 10.1 yard per carry average) with three games still to play.

Andrew Hayes hauled in the touchdown pass, one of his three receptions for 98 yards.

The win improved the Hornets to 6-1 overall and 5-1 in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference going into a home battle with Cabot Red next Thursday.

Russellville’s lone score was an 89-yard kickoff return by Drake Adkins that, at the time — 3:07 left in the first quarter — had the Whirlwinds within 14-6.

Offensively, Russellville mustered 26 yards in the first half and just 14 in the second, which concluded with the sportsmanship rule in effect in the fourth quarter with play continuing with a running clock.

“(The defense) played well tonight,” acknowledged Hornets coach Kenny Horn. “They had some weapons but we made some big plays. They didn’t execute a few that could’ve made a bid difference in the game early on but I was proud of our defense. They executed our scheme well.

The Whirlwinds offense never crossed midfield on its own. The defense recovered a Bryant fumble at the Hornets’ 10 with 7:54 left. With reserves in the game for both teams, the ‘Winds got to the 2 only to run out of downs with 6:08 left.

Behind the running of quarterbacks Jaylon Dickson and Coby Greiner along with running back Braylon Butler, the Hornets were able to run out the clock. Dickson had a 9-yard run on a third down to help get the Hornets outside their on 5.

Greiner had runs of 13 and 52 yards. The latter reached the 12. He took a knee there as time ran out.

The Hornets opened up throwing. On the second attempt, Thomas and Hayes combined on a 39-yard completion. On the next snap, Hudson dashed 21 yards for his first touchdown.

Russellville picked up its initial first down by penalty, a hold on a pass play. Moments later, however, Jakob Neel and Dickson combined on a stop for no gain on a third-and-4 at the Whirlwinds’ 33. Patrick Karp and K.J. Terry also made strong stops during the possession.

Punted back to their own 26, the Hornets scored again when Thomas kept for the first time and sprinted through the Whirlwinds’ defense for a 74-yard TD run, his 18th of the season. Dickson ran in the two-point conversion.

But, on the kickoff, Adkins came all the way back the other way, trimming the lead to 14-6.

Bryant got its next series started at its own 20. Hayes made a tough catch as he was hit on a throw down the middle for 16 yards. Thomas then slashed 42 yards. A personal foul penalty against Russellville moved the ball to the 11 and, on the next play, Hudson scored his second TD.

“We’ve got one running back on the shelf,” Horn noted, adding of Hudson who hadn’t been playing as much lately though he came into the game as Bryant’s second leading rusher. “Keethan is a pretty good runner. I think he’s going to be a very good running back. He was just having a hard time understanding the offensive scheme early on. He practiced well this week and it showed out here tonight. He’s an explosive runner and he’s fast. He can do some things with the football.”

On the ensuing kickoff, Russellville’s Bryson Kordsmeier returned and looked like he might have some room but Bryant’s Malek Holman hauled him down at the 29. Consecutive tackles by Wyatt Hoyt helped force the ‘Winds to go three-and-out.

The Hornets struggled a bit on offense in their next two possessions. They punted with Logan Grant booming one, pushing Russellville back to its own 9. A 17-yard pass from Rhett Adkins to Kordsmeier picked up a first down but, moments later, the Whirlwinds were punting it back.

Again, however, the Hornets were stymied. Thomas was stopped on a fourth down play at the Russellville 29.

“I thought our offensive line had a little trouble on some execution after those first few possessions but we worked on it at halftime and, hopefully, shored it up,” Horn noted.

Still, Bryant wasn’t done. A short punt with under a minute left in the half gave the Hornets possession at their own 49. Thomas ran for 8 yards then overthrew Hayes on a deep route. On the next play, however, Hayes ran a little post route, made the catch, stepped out of a tackle, picked up a block from Grant Botti, and raced to the opposite corner for a 43-yard touchdown with :16.3 on the clock. Martin Ramirez kicked the extra point and it was 29-6 at the half.

“We got a little throwing going,” Horn said. “That touchdown before halftime was really big. Andrew made a great play. He made two great catches. I know he dropped a little out-and-up but Andrew doesn’t miss many. Andrew’s a great receiver. He’s going to be a good one. When he gets the ball in his hands, he can do some stuff.

“Of course, Randy played well,” he added.

After accounting for 303 yards of total offense the previous week, Thomas accumulated 284 between running and passing against Russellville.

To start the second half, Holman made another stop on the kickoff return then Jake Wright sacked Rhett Adkins, leading to another punt.

The Hornets’ offense resumed at its own 25 and, in six plays, went the distance. Thomas got his second touchdown on a 44-yard burst. Ramirez’ kick made it 36-6 with 3:20 left in the third quarter.

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