Photos by Rick Nation
Monday night, the Bryant Hornets faced the Little Rock Central Tigers, a team that they had lost to[more] a month earlier. Knowing how the other teamed worked, they had to come out strong and fast, being the first to strike.
And this time, the Hornets won 2-1 in an overtime shootout with freshman Bryce Denker knocking home the winning penalty kick.
The Hornets had the Tigers running backwards at first, Denker and Ben Stukenborg leading the attack. When those two didn’t have an opening, Justin Travis was there. The three of them were finding the gaps and pressuring the Tigers’ defense the best that anyone has all year.
When the ball was on the other side, the strong and determined defense was there to cause trouble for the Tigers. Caleb Garrett was able to fight and clear the ball inside the penalty box on a couple occasions. Alex Rowlan was doing everything he could to get to the ball and make sure keeper Jace Denker was clear.
The first goal of the night came from Central at 20:31, only it was on the wrong goal. After a hard kick coming from the right side by Chase Stuart, the ball hit off of a Tiger defender while he was trying to head it out of trouble.
After that, it got a little chippy. The next 10 minutes, players on both side of the ball were playing tough and it was on the verge of getting ugly. Down on the Hornets’ side of the field, Forrest Fowler was trying to win the ball and did. The Central player was then in Fowler’s face. But the Bryant junior played smart, not backing down but not retaliating. The Central player ended up drawing a yellow card.
Down on the other side at 13:18, Bryce Denker had a throw-in that was heading to Alex Rowlan on an open shot but the ball got to the keeper first. At 4:00, Reed Evans had a nice crossing shot that hit off the side rail. Just 14 seconds later, Stuart had an open shot from 23 yards out but it went high over the crossbar.
Bryant was able to escape danger in the last :13 on the half after a Tiger free kick just on the outside of the penalty box and Stuart was able to clear it out ending the half.
Starting the second half the same way they started the game, the Hornets went on the attack first. Bryce Denker had a throw in at 37:57 that was almost a goal again courtesy of the Tigers. Reed Evans then tried a header but the keeper hit it out resulting in a corner kick. On the corner, Bryce Denker sent it sailing to Holden Chavis for a header but it was blocked.
The Tigers got a goal at 22:10 off a free kick 34 yards out on the right side of the field. Keeper Jace Denker ended the night with three saves.
The final 15 minutes of the game, the Hornets couldn’t get any sort of whistle from the ref for penalties against them. Instead, Bryant got two yellow cards of its own, both disputed. One came after Stukenborg was pushed down and, the other, after a Tiger went to kick the ball, missed, spun around and landed on the ground. But the team was able to survive it and end the game 1-1 heading into the shootout on penalty kicks.
Central was up first. Bryant had Victor Rodarte in the net this time.The Tigers’ first shot was good at the bottom left of goal. 0-1
Fowler shot good at the bottom left. 1-1
The Tigers shot good at the bottom left. 1-2
Alex Rowlan shot good at middle left of goal. 2-2
The Tigers shot good at middle left of goal. 2-3
Holden Chavis shot good at high mid-center. 3-3
The Tigers’ shot was then blocked by Rodarte on the lower right. 3-3
Ryan Watson shot miss for Bryant, high right. 3-3
The Tigers’ shot missed high over top rail. 3-3
The last shooter was Bryce Denker. Shot good low left. 4-3. Game over.
The Hornets now have the long trip to Van Buren on Monday, April 25, followed by a trip to face Russellville on Thursday, April 28, before a make-up game against Little Rock Catholic on the next night.